Fact Check

Sheriff Arpaio's Letter to Al Sharpton

Letter from Sheriff Joe Arpaio rebuffs Rev. Al Sharpton's demands that he resign?

Published Apr 30, 2009

Claim:   Letter from Sheriff Joe Arpaio rebuffs Rev. Al Sharpton's demands that he resign.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, April 2009]

Reverend Al Sharpton
106 West 145th Street
Harlem, New York City, New York 10039
Fax: 212 690 3070

Dear Reverend Sharpton:

I have read about you with much interest since learning of the protest you plan to lead against me in Maricopa County in June as a way to force my resignation or removal from office.

Your public proclamation leads me to the conclusion: not only do you not understand Arizona; you also do not understand democracy. As the elected Sheriff who, so far has been elected to five consecutive four-year terms, I answer to the four million residents of Maricopa County. I do not answer to the whims of the media, or locally and nationally elected officials who want open borders and who have their own agendas. Nor do I answer to a publicity hound outside interloper who has demonstrated no interest in looking for the truth before making loud uninformed noises.

While your public outcries are colorful, there are several instances where you have inserted yourself into other people's affairs without knowing any of the facts. Poor judgment has caused you plenty of trouble in the past and promises to do so again. Most earnest people want to learn by their mistakes. You seem to glory in repeating them.

I would like to help you avoid further embarrassment by assisting in your understanding of the illegal immigration problem here in my county. When and if you do make the trip here, I invite you to call me to talk about these false allegations.

We can discuss how my deputies are extensively trained by the federal government to properly combat illegal immigration and how the laws of this

state allow this Sheriff's Office to question and investigate the immigration status of those people deputies detain in the course of our everyday law enforcement duties.

Don't make the same mistake made by the four Democratic Congressmen calling for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of this office. They and other politicians relied solely on media reports and anti-law enforcement handouts that are replete with inaccuracies. They have brainwashed a handful of local residents to believe these lies. Rest assured that the men and women of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office do not racially profile anyone.

However, we do enforce the state and federal illegal immigration laws. And we will continue to do so as long as these laws are on the books. You can parachute into town, stomp your feet up and down and hold more press conferences against me — that is a hallmark of democracy too — but you will not stop me, nor slow me down for one second, from doing what is right.

Before you bring your circus to town and take to our streets by marching against this Sheriff, let's get you fully informed for a change. Congressman John Conyers did not have the courtesy to respond to my invitation to visit with me personally. I hope you will consider my invitation. Surely, a man like yourself — a reverend — who famously preaches from the church pulpit understands the infinite wisdom of these words: You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. Let's talk about the truth, Reverend. I await your response.


Joe Arpaio
Sheriff, Maricopa County


Origins:   In April 2009, Baptist minister and social activist Al Sharpton called upon Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio to resign after the latter announced he would be making illegal immigration sweeps throughout the county, with Sharpton and ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis proclaiming they would stage protests in the streets of Arizona if Sheriff Arpaio did not step down:

Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton and ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis jumped into the fray, threatening to bring their vast national networks to march in the streets of Phoenix if Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), does not resign immediately.

In a national press event held via teleconference, civil rights leaders railed about Arpaio's immigration enforcement tactics, charging that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) engages in racial profiling, police brutality, and human rights violations. Speakers included Sharpton, Lewis, NAACP leaders, and other well-known civil rights activists.

Sharpton and Lewis vowed to come to Arizona personally if Arpaio does not resign immediately. Arpaio called a press conference in response and told local media that a small group of vocal opponents is trying to intimidate him by publicly calling him and his officers racists.

In response to the Rev. Sharpton's demand, on 13 April 2009 Sheriff Arpaio fired off the defiant letter reproduced above, dismissing Sharpton's call for his resignation as a publicity stunt. That same day, the MCSO also issued a press release on the issue, stating (in part):

In a letter sent to the flamboyant and often outrageous Reverend Al Sharpton today, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told Sharpton that a June 2009 protest he plans to lead against Arpaio is a waste of time. In addition Arpaio said if Reverend Sharpton bothered to research the facts, he would know there is no basis to Sharpton's publicity ploy.

Today's letter makes it clear that Sharpton will not force Sheriff Arpaio to resign or be removed from office nor will he intimidate Arpaio into backing off from his fight against illegal immigration.

"If that reverend thinks he is going to change the way we do things here in Maricopa County, then he's got another thing coming," Arpaio says.

Still, as a courtesy to the controversial Sharpton, Arpaio's letter suggested the two men meet if and when the Reverend comes to Phoenix to protest Arpaio's illegal immigration policies.

Sharpton recently announced in a national press conference that he will lend his voice to the chorus of critics rallying against Sheriff Arpaio and his deputy's enforcement of the state and federal anti illegal immigration laws. Critics, including some locally elected officials, routinely portray Arpaio and his deputies as racists because they enforce state and federal immigration laws.

Sharpton says he will bring hundreds of activists to the Valley in June if Arpaio doesn't resign from office.

"He must be living in fantasy land," Arpaio says. "Arizona can use some extra tourist funds, so come on down."

Last updated:   30 April 2009


    Griffin, Lance.   "Al Sharpton to Headline Banquet."

    NBC13.com.   28 April 2009.

    Hensley, J.J.   "Arpaio's Letter of Invitation Ensures Duel with Sharpton."

    The Arizona Republic.   14 April 2009.

    Teo, Dawn.   "Al Sharpton and ACORN Call for Arizona Sheriff to Resign, or Else."

    The Huffington Post.   8 April 2009.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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