Sheriff Joe to Rolling Stone: "Controversy—Well, It Hasn't Hurt Me in 50 Years"

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Joe Hagen profiles profiles Sheriff Joe for Rolling Stone:

"My people said, 'You're stupid to do an interview with that magazine,'" says Arpaio, talking about Rolling Stone, "but hey, controversy — well, it hasn't hurt me in 50 years."

Arpaio is an unabashed carnival barker. And his antics might be amusing if he weren't also notorious for being not just the toughest but the most corrupt and abusive sheriff in America. As Arizona has become center stage for the debate over illegal immigration and the civil rights of Latinos, Arpaio has sold himself as the symbol of nativist defiance, a modern-day Bull Connor bucking the federal government over immigration policy. As such, he's become the go-to media prop for conservative politicians, from state legislators to presidential candidates, who want to be seen as immigration hard-liners. "I had Michele Bachmann sitting right there," says Arpaio, pointing to my chair. "All these presidential guys coming to see me!"

As Arpaio has faced allegations of rampant racial profiling in Arizona, he's declared war on President Barack Obama, accusing him of watering down federal immigration law to court the Latino vote — while Arpaio himself continues to investigate the legitimacy of Obama's birth certificate, the favored conspiracy of his far-right constituents. "I'm not going to get into everything else we got about the president," he brags to a conservative radio interviewer while I'm sitting in his office. "I could write 9 million books."

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