Eyebrows rose when US president Donald Trump pardoned controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio on the evening of Aug. 25, as Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Texas. They rose further today (Aug. 28) when Trump told reporters the timing was deliberate—and not, as some assumed, in an attempt bury the Arpaio news amid the attention on Harvey, but quite the opposite.
“Even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally—you know, the hurricane was just starting—and I put it out that I had pardoned, as we say, Sheriff Joe,” Trump said when asked about the pardon in a press conference.
Trump also defended his pardon of Arpaio, who was convicted in October for failing to follow a federal court order to stop racial profiling. “Sheriff Joe is a patriot,” Trump said. “Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders, and Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration.” He added that Arpaio is “loved in Arizona.”
In further defense of his decision, Trump then listed a series of his predecessors’ highly controversial pardons, including Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Mark Rich and Barack Obama’s commutation of military leaker Chelsea Manning’s sentence.
Trump’s statement was roundly criticized from several angles. First, for the idea of gaining a TV audience from a national tragedy:
Second, that Arpaio had been a target of the Obama administration.
Third, that Arizonans “loved” Arpaio.
Fourth, the idea that other bad pardons excuse this one.