Trump Says He's Considering Pardoning America's Most Racist Sheriff

Amid the heightened tensions after the violence in Charlottesville, President Donald Trump announces that he is "seriously considering" pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Trump in a red hat speaks at a podium with supporters and Joe Arpaio behind him.

UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump retweeted a "Fox & Friends" tweet referencing his announcement that he was "seriously considering" pardoning former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found in contempt of court when he ignored a judge's orders to cease his racial profiling practices.

CNN reported that Trump also retweeted a remark by user Mike Holden calling the president a fascist, which was later deleted by either Trump himself or some concerned White House staff member.

His decision to retweet this news indicates that he wants the media and the general public to focus on this story, and there are a number of potential reasons why. Perhaps the most alarming is the message this sends to white supremacists in his base, who despite his overdue condemnation of the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, will understand that his policies remain in line with their own racist ideologies. 


Google "America's most racist sheriff" and Joe Arpaio's Wikipedia page is the first entry that pops up. Convicted last month for disobeying a judge's order to stop racially profiling, Arpaio faces up to six months in jail, but may walk free thanks to President Donald Trump.

"I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” Trump told Fox News on Sunday while at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. “He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot, and I hate to see what has happened to him.”

Arpaio himself has called his sentencing the "worst miscarriage of the judicial system in history," according to Politico, and has said that he would welcome a pardon from the president. However, despite claiming his innocence, an extensive investigation by the Department of Justice found that Arpaio supervised the worst pattern of racial profiling in United States history. 

The Washington Post compiled an extensive list of all the reasons Arpaio does not deserve a presidential pardon, detailing the former sheriff's years of racism against the Latino population in Maricopa County, Arizona. Included on the top of the list was the 2011 conclusion by the DOJ. Among other things, the DOJ report found that deputies regularly punished Spanish-speaking prisoners for poor English by placing them in solitary confinement, harassed passersby solely because of their skin color or for speaking Spanish, and were in fact neglecting to address violent crimes due to their obsessive focus on Latinos.

If there was any doubt as to the racist intention of his practices, Arpaio even once proudly called his jail a concentration camp.

As a law enforcement leader, the likelihood of Arpaio ever doing actual time is small; if Trump did decide to pardon the former sheriff, it would potentially be more symbolic than anything else.

As America saw in the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend though, symbolism is powerful and it can divide communities, rile emotions, and incite violence. Trump may have finally condemned white supremacy verbatim on Monday, but in context, his words mean nothing.

The president revealed his true colors when he said nothing at all amid the escalating tensions and when he tried to blame "many sides" for the tragic violence, instead of denouncing the source of this evil: white supremacy.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Wikimedia Commons user Gage Skidmore

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