President Trump’s pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio—which the commander in chief boasted of announcing during Hurricane Harvey so that it would earn higher “ratings”—has been criticized from all corners of the political spectrum. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, a sad-eyed shell of a man who long ago swore fealty to Trump, voiced his displeasure.
Arpaio is, to borrow a phrase used by POTUS, a “bad hombre.” During his tenure as Maricopa County sheriff, from 1993 to 2016, Arpaio presided over a department that seemingly took pleasure in terrorizing its inmates.
He erected several outdoor prison-hellscapes called “tent cities,” where inmates were made to suffer through triple-digit temperatures—causing some prisoners’ shoes to melt (Arpaio himself branded it a “concentration camp”). A pregnant Latina woman was forced to give birth in shackles. A paraplegic prisoner was brutally tortured for requesting a catheter so he could urinate.
From 1996 to 2015, the suicide rate in Arpaio’s jails was 24 percent, much higher than the national average. In a cruel display, he marched Latino inmates in chains into a segregated prison area guarded by electric fencing. His department attempted to frame an 18-year-old kid in a phony assassination plot against Arpaio to help his ’99 reelection effort. He even set up an online livestream in his prisons on which, in exchange for filling out a survey, viewers could observe female inmates using the toilet.
And so, on Monday night, The Daily Show dedicated its latest “Profile in Tremendousness” to Arpaio, a man host Trevor Noah described as “anti-being a decent human being.”
“Yes, the man Trump pardoned is regarded by many as one of the worst sheriffs in America. Worse than Sheriff Clarke, worse than Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, worse than the sheriff Bob Marley shot in his song—and that guy was a dick… that guy was a real dick. I mean, Bob Marley was super chill. If he killed you, you had it coming,” joked Noah.
He added, “This guy’s bad news. And now, Sheriff Arpaio’s abuses of power didn’t just hurt the inmates at his prisons, they also hurt the taxpayers who had to foot the bill.”
Indeed, during Arpaio’s tenure as Maricopa County sheriff, taxpayers had to cover $142 million in legal fees, settlements, and compliance costs involving cases against Arpaio and his office—including two wrongful-death suits and numerous civil-rights and discrimination suits.
“Just think about that for a second: $142 million spent because of him,” said Noah. “Think about all the other things that money could have bought: schools, or roads, or they could have just paid Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor to punch Joe Arpaio in the face. That is a lot of money.”
“And now, here’s what may surprise you: All that shit that Arpaio did, that’s not why he needed a pardon,” he continued. “No, those were just his extracurriculars. It turns out his full-time job was racism.”
Arpaio was ultimately found guilty of criminal contempt for defying a 2011 court order that barred his officers from pulling over Latino motorists just because they were Hispanic.
But Arpaio and his pardoner, Trump, have been partners in racism for quite some time. Back in 2012, Arpaio held a press conference where he declared that then President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery—an event applauded by Trump, who led the charge on the racist birther conspiracy against the first black POTUS.
After that, Arpaio endorsed Trump for president, saying, “It’s just easy to endorse him because everything I believe in he’s doing, and he’s going to do it when he becomes president.”
“You know, for a guy who’s not racist, Donald Trump sure has a lot of racist friends,” cracked Noah. “He’s like the straight guy at the gym that all the gay guys hit on. Maybe they know something you don’t. Just maybe.”
In addition to “rendering the courts powerless,” Noah argued that Trump may be sending a message with the Arpaio pardon.
“It feels like Trump did this not just to reward Arpaio’s loyalty, but to send a message to all his other cronies from the campaign: Hey, guys, good news. We get our own set of laws. You don’t need to cooperate with Mueller and the Russian investigation. I’ll just pardon you.”