Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a libel lawsuit against The New York Times and a member of its editorial board Tuesday over an opinion piece lambasting his tough stance on immigration and law enforcement.
The column – titled “Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress” – was written by Michelle Cottle and published Aug. 29, just after Arpaio’s loss in Arizona’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.
He was defeated by Republican Martha McSally. He is seeking $147.5 million in damages from the Times and Cottle.
In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Arpaio, who called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” claims the op-ed contains “several false, defamatory factual assertions.”
Arpaio said the article damaged his ability to secure funding from donors for a potential 2020 run for the late Sen. John McCain’s Senate seat currently being held by Sen. John Kyle and was “carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure” his reputation.
Cottle wrote that Arpaio’s 24-year tenure as sheriff was “medieval in its brutality.” She accused him of “racial profiling on a mass scale and terrorizing immigrant neighborhoods with gratuitous raids and traffic stops and detentions.”
The article also detailed previously reported stories in which inmates at a jail overseen by Arapio were mistreated, given rotten food to eat and denied medical care. Other claims include the sheriff and his deputies failure to properly investigate or investigate at all more than 400 sex-crime cases.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Politico that “We intend to vigorously defend against the lawsuit.”
Arpaio served six terms as sheriff of Maricopa County and gained national recognition for his hardline approach to undocumented immigrants.
In 2017, he was convicted for criminal contempt after he defied a judge’s order to stop traffic patrols targeting undocumented immigrants.
He was pardoned by President Trump before his could be sentenced.