Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio Claims Three Publications Did $300 Million In Damage To His Pristine Reputation

from the exponential-thinking dept

Former sheriff (and ongoing blight on the state of Arizona) Joe Arpaio has decided to sue a handful of new agencies for defamation. The slightly-overwrought press release from FreedomWatch (and founder Larry Klayman) alleges defamation per se on the part of CNN, the Huffington Post, and Rolling Stone and claims these three publications caused $300.5 million in damage to Arpaio's otherwise impeccable reputation.

Here's Freedom Watch's zesty summation of the lawsuit:

"It's time that someone stood up to the Left's 'Fake News' media, which is bent on destroying anyone who is a supporter of the president and in particular Sheriff Arpaio. My client will not be bullied by the likes of Jeff Zucker, Chris Cuomo, the Huffington Post, and Rolling Stone, as he alone has the courage to stand up for not just himself, the President of the United States but also all fair-minded and ethical Americans."

Ok, then. If you think the lawsuit itself is a much more buttoned-down affair, then you haven't read a Larry Klayman complaint before. It starts with the usual stuff establishing standing before getting down to the focus of the complaint. The alleged defamation committed by all three defendants is referring to Joe Arpaio as a "convicted felon" when his only conviction was for a misdemeanor. Rolling Stone issued a correction but the other two defendants haven't corrected their original misstatements. Hence the lawsuit -- Arpaio and Klayman's public attempt to stick it to the "Left Fake News media."

Here's why Arpaio feels he's owed $300 million for a couple of standing misstatements. Running for an open US Senate seat must pay really well.

Plaintiff Arpaio’s chances and prospects of election to the U.S. Senate in 2020 have been severely harmed by the publication of false and fraudulent facts in the Defamatory Article. This also harms Plaintiff financially, as his chances of obtaining funding from the Republican establishment and donors for the 2020 election have been damaged by the publication of false and fraudulent representations in the Defamatory Article.

Given the pardon issued to him by the Republican president currently in office, it seems unlikely his reputation suffered any damage from these incorrect statements. If anything, it only further damaged the reputation of these publications, at least in the eyes of Arpaio supporters (which presumably includes a sizeable percentage of Republican voters).

Arpaio managed to survive hundreds of self-inflicted reputational wounds during his years as sheriff, so it's a bit of a stretch to claim three "fake news" sources have done anything more than further cement his reputation as a martyr to the cause.

Arpaio also claims this has damaged his reputation within the law enforcement community. Again, it seems unlikely to have budged the needle there either. Law enforcement agencies tend to view the press with the same suspicion Arpaio does and probably agree the ex-sheriff was persecuted rather than prosecuted.

Nevertheless, there's potential money to be made. And Klayman, representing Arpaio, isn't above using a federal lawsuit as soapbox. At times, the complaint [PDF] more resembles a transcript of a YouTube monologue than a statement of facts and allegations.

Defendants are aware of these prospective business relationships and thus, given their malice and leftist enmity of Arpaio sought to destroy them with the publication of the subject Defamatory Publications.

Defendants published the Defamatory Publications to influence the RNC, the RNCC and affiliated political action committee and persons, and other donors, to withhold funding for Plaintiff Arpaio’s 2020 political campaign by smearing and destroying his reputation and standing in his law enforcement, government and political community.

Plaintiff Arpaio has been harmed as to his reputation as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and financially by the publication of the Defamatory Article.

[insert fire emoji]

While it's true publications got the facts wrong, Joe Arpaio is an extremely public person. This raises the bar he must meet to succeed in this lawsuit. While the publications may have been careless in incorrectly noting the level of the offense that Arpaio was convicted for, that's not nearly enough to secure a favorable ruling.

The difference between convicted felon and convicted misdemeanant probably doesn't mean much when placed in the totality of Arpaio's recent history. Arpaio was convicted of contempt and spent part of the last decade being investigated by the DOJ. Add this to his long history of civil liberties violations and refusal to adhere to court orders, and the difference between a felony conviction and a misdemeanor is a rounding error.

Arpaio's reputation has been leaking hit points for a long time, but it has never affected his popularity with his presumed voter base. The rest of America may hate "America's Toughest Sheriff," but his supporters can't get enough of him. Three mistakes by three publications is unlikely to have caused $300-worth of damage to the ex-sheriff's Senatorial chances, much less $300 million. Some people are just defamation-proof and it's a good bet Joseph Arpaio is one of them.

Arpaio's welcome to waste the court's time and his own money claiming the "fake news" media dinged his rust bucket of a reputation, but he's not going to be happy when the court apprises him of the above facts. The problem is these three publications will have to spend some money of their own defending against a seriously weak lawsuit. With the DC circuit having decided it doesn't need to apply the District's own anti-SLAPP law to federal cases, it's likely the defendants will be stuck with covering their own costs, even if they prevail. On top of that they'll have to deal with an opposing counsel with a penchant for pissing off judges and treating the courtroom like a heated Periscope broadcast. It's a waste of everyone's time and money but Klayman's. I'm pretty sure he didn't take this on contingency.


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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 14 Dec 2018 @ 10:45am

    For a party that claims the others are snowflake, they sure melt easy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 14 Dec 2018 @ 10:45am

    Arpaio supporters (which presumably includes a sizeable percentage of Republican voters).

    About 18%, if the 2018 primaries were any indication.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 14 Dec 2018 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      So he came in (a distant) third and is whining to the courts to give him money? He really deserves his reputation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:08am

        Re: Re:

        That's after losing reelection by double digits in 2016. As a six-term incumbent, in a county that's more Republican-leaning than the state as a whole.

        The thing to understand about Arpaio is, this is a grift. He knew he wasn't going to win in 2018, and he knows he's not going to win in 2020.

        If he were serious about winning, he wouldn't have run for Senate, he would have run for the House seat vacated by Trent Franks. He could have won it. That he chose to run for a more prestigious seat he couldn't win, and not a less prestigious seat that he could, means that winning was not his intention.

        Arpaio loves attention, and he loves money. That's what his Senate campaign was about, it's what his next Senate campaign will be about, and it's what this lawsuit is about. He knows he won't win. But he also knows this will get him on TV, and it will get his supporters to keep sending in contributions -- to his campaign, to his legal defense fund, to whatever the grift is this time.

        Even when the racist old bastard loses, he still wins. I hate that. But I take comfort in the knowledge that he'll never hold elected office again.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Arpaio loves attention, and he loves money. That's what his Senate campaign was about, it's what his next Senate campaign will be about, and it's what this lawsuit is about. He knows he won't win. But he also knows this will get him on TV, and it will get his supporters to keep sending in contributions -- to his campaign, to his legal defense fund, to whatever the grift is this time.

          Even when the racist old bastard loses, he still wins. I hate that. But I take comfort in the knowledge that he'll never hold elected office again.

          That's what a lot of people assumed about the man who is now the 45th President of the United States.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Thad (profile), 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:37am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That's what a lot of people assumed about the man who is now the 45th President of the United States.

            Who got 49% of the vote in Maricopa County in 2016, compared to Arpaio's 31%.

            There are a lot of comparisons you can draw between Arpaio and Trump -- a lot. But popularity among the electorate ain't one of 'em.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 14 Dec 2018 @ 2:40pm

      Re: About 18%

      “The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.”
      -- Republican Spock

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 10:46am

    How NEW are these agencies?!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Dec 2018 @ 10:46am

    If you do not want people saying mean things about you, stop giving them a reason to say those things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:05am

    My client [...] alone has the courage to stand up for not just himself, the President of the United States but also...

    Wait, wait, wait.

    I know I'm a bit remiss in keeping up with the shitshow that has been US politics lately, but when exactly did Joe Arpaio get elected President?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:06am

    Nonsense. Anyone who would have contributed to Arpaio will likely still do so regardless of those articles. Also, since defamation requires that his reputation be harmed and it's exceptionally unlikely that the articles diminished anyone's opinion of him, I don't see this case going far.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:10am

    I hope they lose and he ends up owing more money

    Rights violating racist assholes don't get my sympathy. He has caused more than 300 million in rights violations so why doesn't the state start the trial once he pays off the outstanding balance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:18am

    Arpaio's welcome to waste the court's time and his own money claiming the "fake news" media dinged his rust bucket of a reputation, but he's not going to be happy when the court apprises him of the above facts.

    As mentioned in the article, whining about "left fake news" gives him a boost with his supporters. That in itself would be reason enough to sue.

    However, here's the thing: win or lose in court, it gives him another boost with his supporters! In their eyes, winning will prove him right; losing will prove that he's persecuted. (His supporters are already predisposed for the latter, as he's been losing in court for a while now.)

    Whichever way this falls, he wins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 11:30am

    Is there a felony contempt of court?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 12:01pm

    Soapbox

    And Klayman, representing Arpaio, isn't above using a federal lawsuit as soapbox.

    Or using it as a vanity press, we could say. The court should increase the filing fees accordingly for people who do that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2018 @ 12:09pm

    Sheriff Arpiao is NOT a cannibal
    Sheriff Arpiao is NOT a rapist
    Sheriff Arpiao is NOT a paedophile
    Sheriff Arpiao is NOT a bank robber

    and hopefully NONE of those searches will somehow get integrated into google!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 14 Dec 2018 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      I mean, they will, but not searches for "Arpaio".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2018 @ 6:52am

      Re:

      "get integrated into google"

      The word "integrated" is not very accurate in this usage. I suggest something like, "gets significant quantities of search requests". afaik, the algorithm used by google ranks sites based, in part, upon search quantity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DeComposer (profile), 14 Dec 2018 @ 12:42pm

    Revised title

    “toughest (disgraced former) sheriff in America”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 11:14am

    Confused

    Didn't get get convicted of a felony and that is what he was pardoned for? If so, then he is IN FACT a convicted felon...the fact that he was pardoned just means he doesn't have to pay the consequences for being one.

    It's kind of like getting elected to as President of the US without actually taking the job seriously...he's still the president without actually being THE PRESIDENT.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 12:31pm

      Re: Confused

      It was a misdemeanor, not a felony. Arpaio's argument is that calling him a "convicted felon" when he was actually convicted of a misdemeanor is libelous. It is not a good argument.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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