Donald Trump admitted that he decided to announce the controversial pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio during the start of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall because he knew it would get higher ratings at that time.
In a press conference on Monday, Trump addressed his decision to hand a pardon to the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff who had been convicted of criminal contempt after disobeying a federal judge’s order to stop racially profiling people suspected of being illegal immigrants. Arpaio has long been a controversial figure for his focus on illegal immigrants, with a court ultimately ordering his department to stop racially profiling Hispanics — crackdowns which often ensnared U.S. citizens wrongly suspected of entering the United States illegally.
There had been reports throughout the week that Donald Trump was preparing to pardon Joe Arpaio, who was an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s campaign. That came to a head on Friday, when Trump announced the pardon in the late evening hours, just as Hurricane Harvey was preparing to make landfall in Texas as one of the strongest hurricanes to strike that area in years.
During a press conference with Finish President Sauli Niinistö, Trump said that he decided to announce Arpaio’s pardon on Friday night because he thought the attention on Hurricane Harvey would help it get better ratings.
“In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” Trump said (via The Hill). “You know, the hurricane was just starting.”
Trump also defended his decision to pardon Arpaio, saying that he was a decided law enforcement official who was unfairly targeted by the Obama administration.
“He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona, he’s very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration,” Trump said. “I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him right before the election voting started.”
Critics have a long list of complaints about Arpaio, including his treatment of inmates in the county lockup. Arpaio held many in outdoor tent cities that he referred to as concentration camps, where the temperate in the summer was measured as high as 140 degrees. Many of these inmates were awaiting trial and had not been convicted.
Arpaio is also accused of ignoring sexual assault cases, including those against children, as his department put a heavy focus on policing illegal immigration. The sheriff also dedicated resources to investigating whether Barack Obama was actually born outside the country, and later held a press conference claiming that Obama’s birth certificate showed signs of forgery, USA Today noted. The findings were panned by experts in digital manipulation, who noted that there were no real signs of forgery.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]