On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver argued that President Trump’s controversial pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was a “doozy” compared to Abraham Lincoln pardoning a man for attempted bestiality. Oliver explained that Arpaio’s unnerving treatment of prisoners and Trump’s clemency order was “a slap in the face to the very rule of law itself.”
The 85-year-old Arpaio, a former Maricopa County lawman, touted himself as “America’s toughest sheriff.” After concluding a three-year investigation in 2011, the U.S. Justice Department determined Arpaio oversaw a “pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos,” who were up to nine times more likely to be stopped by a deputy than whites. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court in July after he violated a temporary order to cease making immigration-related round-ups. He was scheduled to be sentenced in October.
Oliver highlighted Arpaio’s humiliating treatment of prisoners at his “tent city,” including serving them rotten bologna sandwiches, forcing them to wear pink underwear, filming women in the restroom and spiking temperatures in the facility up to 145 degrees.
On the campaign trail, Trump argued that Arpaio was convicted for “just doing his job.” “Here’s the thing there: He absolutely was not ‘just doing his job,'” the host said. “He was also doing something illegal. You wouldn’t say that John Wayne Gacy was ‘just doing his job,’ even though he was, by all accounts, a pretty good birthday clown. It’s the stuff he was doing on top of that that needed addressing.”
Oliver labeled Trump’s pardon a “slap in the face to Latinos that Arpaio and his department unconstitutionally targeted” and marveled how such a stance could even exist.
“Arpaio broke the rules he was sworn to uphold – rules that are put in place to protect citizens from a government going out of control,” Oliver said. “And Trump giving him a pass after everything you’ve seen tonight and saying he’s ‘just doing his job’ is a loud confirmation that, at least as far as this White House is concerned, for the next few years, law enforcement won’t necessarily be expected to do their jobs the way the constitution or the courts say they should.”