On his segment of today's CNN Newsroom, anchor Rick Sanchez went for the hat trick, likening Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the infamous Theophilus “Bull” Connor, Birmingham, Alabama’s late segregationist police commissioner who ruthlessly used police attack dogs and fire hoses to thwart 1963 civil rights demonstrators, no fewer than three times.
[SEE also Matt Balan's related post, with video.]
Sanchez prefaced his interview with the Arizona sheriff:
Well, perhaps not since Bull Connor whose aggressive police tactics against blacks in the South sparked civil rights legislation in 1964 has our country seen a showdown like the one going on right now between Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio and Washington, as in the feds.And during his interview:
You heard it here on Friday, right? Immigration and Customs Enforcement assistant secretary came on the air and told me that while they do want local sheriffs around the country to help with immigration issues and immigration arrests, he specifically said they don't want Sheriff Joe Arpaio's help.
SANCHEZ: Like Bull Connor in 1960s, you're going to sit there and tell the feds, you don't care what they say, you're going to do it your way and you're going to do it when you want to do it?Then after the interview with Arpaio, he spoke with a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune:
ARPAIO: No, they don't tell me how to do my job enforcing state laws. I worked 25 years as a top Justice Department drug enforcement official. I think I know the federal law and how to operate under the federal blanket. So...
SANCHEZ: All right. Well, for the record, they're saying you don't and they're saying you're violating it.
ARPAIO: Then come on after me, if he thinks I'm violating any of the federal laws.
SANCHEZ: I hope many of you saw my interview just about 20 minutes ago with Sheriff Joe Arpaio out of Maricopa County. He's sticking to his guns. He says he's doing nothing wrong. The Feds are telling him, back off. We don't want your raids anymore. We don't want your sweeps. We don't think that your police procedure is proper. But he's saying he's going to continue to do these anyway.
You know, it reminds one of the standoff between the Feds and Bull Connor back in the 1960s. It began what today we know as much of the civil rights laws that are written in this country.
Has it gone that far? Let me ask somebody who's followed Joe Arpaio since the 1990s. He's a -- a colleague of mine. He's a -- he's a -- I shouldn't say correspondent. He's a writer. He writes columns. His name is Ruben Navarrette.
Unsurprisingly, Navarrette was quite simpatico with Sanchez, beginning with the observation, "I'm glad you talked to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. What would a circus be without the clowns?"
The truth is Joe Arpaio has little in common with Bull Connor. Connor was an ardent, life-long Democrat who served as Alabama's Democratic National Committeeman. Arpaio is a Republican.
Connor viciously attacked citizens exercising their Constitutional rights. Arpaio arrests criminals.
Sanchez isn't the first to liken Arpaio to Connor. ACORN chief executive officer Bertha Lewis has characterized Arpaio as "the 21st century's answer to Bull Connor." Says Rev. Al Sharpton:
I am calling for an end to the civil and human rights violations being committed in Maricopa County. . . and the immediate resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The egregious nature of Arpaio’s abuses, marking him as the Bull Connor of the 21st Century, demands nothing less.
The Communist Workers World last month gleefully reported "Racist Sheriff Arpaio greeted by angry, militant protest." The story noted:
Inside, the event was disrupted by four protesters, one of whom paid the $30 entrance fee and stood in line to get Arpaio’s autograph. When she got to the front of the line, Liliana, a Colombian immigrant, handed Arpaio a certificate and loudly proclaimed, “I am here to present to you the Bull Connor Award for your promotion of racial discrimination, disregard of human rights, abuse of power and general hatred of the ‘other.’
So Sanchez's comparing Sheriff Joe to Bull Connor isn't original. The only difference is he has a daily show on CNN. ACORN, Sharpton, and Workers World can only aspire to such exposure.