Capping off a day of information and entertainment by some of today’s most recognizable conservative leaders, the recent Western Conservative Conference ended with a memorable roast of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Depending on one’s perspective, the man commonly called “America’s toughest sheriff” is either loved or hated for his no-nonsense approach to the job.
Those present during Saturday’s event, however, were firmly on his side and demonstrated their admiration and respect with a healthy dose of good-natured ribbing. The roast began with a special message from rock legend Ted Nugent, a fierce Second Amendment advocate and fan of Arpaio’s work in Arizona and beyond.
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Acknowledging his deference to “the warrior spirit of law enforcement,” he concluded that if communities across the U.S. embraced Arpaio’s approach, “America would once again be that shining city on a hill.”
Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh followed up with a rapid-fire verbal assault, describing Arpaio as “the kind of guy you’ve got to love – as long as you have papers.”
The longtime sheriff, now 82, has been in office so long, Kavanagh said, he has become a fixture.
“Unfortunately,” he added, “for some people, that’s a urinal.”
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Arpaio remains unquestionably popular among voters and is still going strong, expressing an interest to seek at least one more term as sheriff.
“He’ll be not only the toughest,” Kavanagh noted, “but the oldest sheriff in the universe.”
The onslaught continued with a dissection of his firm stance against illegal immigration.
“Usually when we walk into a restaurant,” he concluded, “the wait staff and cooks dive out of the back window.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry offered his take on the sheriff, who was an early backer of his 2012 presidential run. Perry suggested that Arpaio was his coach prior to a debate many feel derailed his chances at the Republican nomination.
“Just kidding,” Perry added. “I wouldn’t saddle you with that distinction.”
Martial artist and actor Steven Seagal, himself a law enforcement officer who worked in Maricopa County with Arpaio for a recent television series, injected the lighthearted event with some serious reflection.
He expressed his disbelief that the nation has been taken over by a president intent on ruling by decree and lamented the corruption in all areas of the government – particularly within Eric Holder’s Department of Justice. He said the only way America can return to its former greatness is through the collective effort of citizens to put party aside and work together to take it back.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne returned the focus to Arpaio, using the opportunity to include a jab about his age.
“I mean this,” he began, “I’m really surprised to see you up this late.”
He sarcastically explored Arpaio’s dedication to cutting costs within the sheriff’s office – especially regarding expenditures for the county jail and its inmates.
“No green baloney for prisoners,” Horne said of recent cutbacks, “only an extra beating at suppertime.”
Bob Corbin, who previously held Horne’s position in Arizona, used his time to thank Western Journalism and the many individuals and groups responsible for hosting the successful conference.
“I can’t roast you,” he said to Arpaio. “I can’t do it. I have so much respect for you.”
That was apparently not a problem for former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, however. Focusing on Arpaio’s apparent fondness of media exposure, he said the sheriff “refused to make a sex tape because they wouldn’t set up 10 cameras.”
He ended on a respectful note, however, concluding that “what this world needs is more heroes” like Arpaio.
U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon agreed, noting Arpaio is “exactly what America needs.”
Former Arizona GOP State Chairman Tom Morrissey concluded that it is “tough to roast Joe,” explaining that “when you are his friend, you are his friend.”
Former MMA and pro wrestling star Daniel Puder said both Arpaio and Seagal served as inspirations and role models for him.
While some of the speakers were able to land some well-placed verbal jabs, Arpaio was apparently expecting harsher criticism.
“It looks like this is a retirement ceremony,” he said during his closing remarks.
The event concluded with a surprise performance of “Jailhouse Rock” performed by an Elvis impersonator.
For hundreds of conference guests, the dinner and roast was a perfect conclusion to an event marked by poignant and thought-provoking addresses by conservative heavyweights from all walks of life.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore