In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre reiterated his organization's position that armed guards are the solution to school violence. Yesterday the NRA's televised news show, Cam & Company, shed light on what the NRA envisions when it calls for armed guards in all schools when it previewed a special on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's school defense "posse."
The three-minute preview shows Sheriff Arpaio and a member of his self-styled "posse" discussing the workings of a group of armed volunteers who now patrol public school zones in Maricopa County, Arizona. While the NRA has called for school guards to be "an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens," no mention was made in the NRA feature of a March 2012 investigation's finding that a number of "posse" members had violent criminal records.
As Arpaio explains in the NRA News segment, "posse" members have "gone through 100 hours of weapons training, plus follow-ups. They buy their own jeeps, airplanes, cars. I swear them in. The only difference is no money, they don't get paid."
The preview also features an interview with "posse" member Jerry Johnson who says, "We're the eyes and ears of the sheriff's department. We're all volunteers. Some are ex-law enforcement, but me I'm retired. And some of us had no experience at all, but we've been trained," and concludes the preview by stating, "We've got so well trained people that you put them in a situation and they're ready to roll."
On March 14, 2012 Phoenix area CBS affiliate KPHO reported on "a number of posse members with arrests for assault, drug possession, domestic violence, sex crimes against children, disorderly conduct, impersonating an officer - and the list goes on." In one incident described by KPHO a "posse" member "threw his girlfriend to the ground and choked her while trying to sexually assault her" and on another occasion a "posse" member held at gunpoint a man who had backed into his car and driven off.
Arpaio has previously drawn criticism for using his "posse" to investigate President Obama's long-form birth certificate, finding it fraudulent, and for promoting what the Justice Department termed "a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos."
The NRA preview also takes a hard line against gun violence prevention measures with Sheriff Arpaio stating that, "It is sad [politicians supportive of stronger gun laws] are using us for politics. They are going through the pony show, they talking to everybody, but we know the fix is in."
Thursday, infamous Maricopa County, AZ sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference to reveal the results of a 6 month-long "investigation" into the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate, which he accused of being fraudulent. The birther pageant was a new low for Arpaio, who – along with his deputies – was recently found by state law enforcement agencies to have failed to investigate hundreds of sex crimes and is currently under federal investigation for alleged "discriminatory practices" that include profiling Latinos.
Phoenix's major local news affiliates approached their coverage of the spectacle in different ways. The CBS affiliate (CBS 5) dedicated over nine minutes Thursday to a series of straight-faced (and apparently ongoing) segments they titled "Investigating the President." Despite the far-out, conspiracy-laden claims made at the birthers' presentation, CBS treated the participants and their assertions in an unduly serious fashion. The network's segment served primarily to amplify the arguments and opinions of Arpaio's "lead investigator" Mike Zullo, who is featured in a softball interview and in lengthy clips from the press conference.
Furthermore, the extremely limited sourcing of counterpoints used by CBS in the segments (anonymous detractors, a year-old Obama quote, and a brief, almost neutral, statement from an AZ congressman) gave the impression that vocal critics of the birth certificate circus were hard to come by -- a scenario that seems improbable at best, given the birther movement's rich history of making false claims.
Watch the CBS report:
In contrast, the Phoenix FOX affiliate (FOX 10) reported on the absurdity of the day with a responsible degree of scrutiny, making the story about the reasonableness of the county sheriff's involvement in the charade. The segment begins with an incredulous anchor throwing to some brief interviews highlighting opposing viewpoints on the issue. It continues with a one-on-one interview with Arpaio and FOX anchor John Hook, in which Hook questions the legal standing, fiscal responsibility and political sanity of the decision to, as Arpaio puts it, take the birthers' investigation "into another atmosphere."
The FOX report: