After two weeks of loudly proclaiming how he wasn't racist, President Donald Trump ended his Friday night by pardoning a controversial Arizona sheriff accused of years of racial profiling. After the announcement, Twitter erupted with anger and dismay. But if you're not local to Arizona, you're maybe a bit mystified about why everyone's so furious — but this viral Twitter thread about Joe Arpaio is here to lay it out.
On Aug. 25, Trump tweeted out that he had pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff who was convicted in late July of ignoring a judge's order to end racially discriminatory policies. Trump had been teasing the pardon for several weeks, including at a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday Aug. 22.
The Phoenix New Times, a free weekly newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona has spent a solid two decades covering Arpaio and his conduct as sheriff. And shortly after Trump announced his pardon, the paper released a 20-plus thread of tweets detailing some of the more egregious allegations against Arpaio.
He ran a “temporary” outdoor jail (which stayed open for 24 years) called Tent City, which he once referred to as a concentration camp, and where prisoners were subject to dangerous conditions. He had Latino prisoners marched into a segregated area with electric fencing as a PR stunt, and humiliated people who had been arrested with a “mugshot of the day” contest on the police website.
It's not a secret that The Phoenix New Times has beef with Arpaio, either.
One of the tweets they included was a story about how Arpaio arrested the paper's reporters for covering a story about him — which ended in a legal victory and almost $4 million settlement for the paper.
The thread continued on, laying out other allegations — that he had neglected to investigate child sex abuse cases, that he had hired a private detective to investigate a judge who had ruled against him, and even that he had staged an assassination attempt against himself for publicity. (???)
The first tweet in the thread has been retweeted more than 100,000 times as of Saturday afternoon, and that's not even counting retweets of the individual tweets in the thread.
The Phoenix New Times isn't the only paper that's come out against the pardon.
Arizona Republic, the state's largest newspaper, published an op-ed from their editorial board calling the pardon, "a sign of pure contempt for every American who believes in justice, human dignity and the rule of law." The op-ed denounced Trump for issuing the pardon, saying:
Many hoped Trump would decide to become the president of all the people. But Trump spent last week demonstrating that he wants to be president of the few. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump made it clear that institutional racism is not just OK with him. It is a goal. That should trouble every American who believes that our duty as a nation is to continue working on behalf of equal justice.
Trump, tweeting from Camp David, doesn't seem terribly bothered by the response. After the lone tweet about Arpaio, he tweeted about Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas on Friday night.
Arpaio, for his part, seemed pretty happy. He tweeted out to thank Trump, calling his conviction a "witch hunt" and saying that he looked forward to working with the president.
Yeah. That's what we're all afraid of.