CNN featured pro-illegal immigration activist Isabel Garcia of Tucson, Arizona on two programs on Wednesday night, and inadvertently caught her giving inconsistent answers regarding a 2008 protest where she participated in the beating and decapitation of a pinata effigy of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona [audio clips from programs available here].
Correspondent Soledad O’Brien featured Garcia in the first segment of her ‘Latino in America’ miniseries at 9 pm Eastern, where she was labeled as an “unapologetic champion of people many Americans love to hate- illegal immigrants.” After detailing her involvement with a high-profile deportation case, O’Brien stated that Garcia had “nothing to do with creating the pinata and only picked it up to defuse” the anti-Arpaio protest. The CNN correspondent cast a sympathetic light on the activist by noting how she has apparently received death threats for her work.
O’BRIEN: Her critics say Isabel Garcia crossed the line when she attended a protest where a pinata of Sheriff Arpaio was knocked to the ground.
GARCIA: One of the right-wing hate radio disk jockeys brought out his video that showed me with a pinata head and they used that to say that I should not be employed in Pima County.
O’BRIEN: Isabel says she had nothing to do with creating the pinata and only picked it up to defuse the protest.
GARCIA: I picked up the pinata head to get the crowd moving.
O’BRIEN: Arpaio’s office called her actions ‘disgraceful.’ There were calls and letters demanding she be fired.
O’BRIEN (on-camera): Because you’re a public official-
O’BRIEN: You shouldn't have been taking part in a protest.
O’BRIEN: That was the gist of a lot of the letters.
GARCIA: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that’s a shame. You see, I believe this is my responsibility.
O’BRIEN (voice-over): And that’s brought death threats.
GARCIA: I have one gentlemen that, in an open hearing, came this close to me and with his finger like a gun said, ‘right between the eyes,’ twice to me.
O’BRIEN: Despite the threats, Isabel continues to challenge Arizona’s tough laws.
GARCIA: How can we be so hypocritical to say- you know, how can you violate our laws and come into the country illegally when we’ve encouraged that for a hundred years?
O’BRIEN: In fact, for decades, the U.S. government looked the other way as American businesses took advantage of the cheap labor. In the ‘90s, and particularly after 9/11, officials got tougher, deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
Two-and-half hours later, anchor Anderson Cooper brought on both Garcia and Arpaio for a segment on the illegal immigration issue. Mid-way through the segment, the pro-illegal immigration activist accused the sheriff of taking advantage of Arizona state laws to create a racist climate against Hispanics: “The fact that he has been able to promote laws that are state laws, focusing in on immigrants, really is reminiscent of post-slavery almost. We have like our own Black Codes here targeting immigrants in this particular situation, and it’s a shame.”
Arpaio fired back by bringing up her pinata protest: “Well, you know, you were down in Tucson with all these kids with your pinata, cutting my head off, teaching kids how to fear law enforcement officers. I’m not going to get into you and your garbage down there in Tucson. So don’t go insulting me.”
Cooper fairly followed-through with Garcia on her conduct at the protest, as he showed video footage from it: “Let me ask you about that Isabel because...it has been...a big issue....There’s this video- you were at a demonstration where there was a pinata of the sheriff that was beheaded by a group of people who are beating it up...and you are then parading around with the beheaded head of the sheriff from the pinata. If that was done by conservatives to a pinata of President Obama, people would flip out. I mean, do you defend this?”
Garcia didn’t explain herself in her answer, but instead, made Arpaio the issue: “Look...what these kids did was legitimate, symbolic speech....I wish Arpaio’s was symbolic speech. He treats our entire community like a pinata himself.”
This is actually the third separate answer Garcia has given on this pinata decapitation episode. Shortly after it took place in 2008, Michelle Malkin reported on her blog how she thought the entire affair was “funny.”
Anderson Cooper probably didn’t realize it at the time, but he was actually tougher on Ms. Garcia than his colleague Soledad O’Brien was.