On the heels of electoral defeat, Sheriff Joe Arpaio attempts to revive debate over Obama’s birth certificate
Joe Arpaio, a Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff, continues to support the “birther” movement. (Dec. 16, 2016)
Mike Zullo looked tired.
With reason. For five years, he has done the legwork in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attempt to prove that President Obama’s birth certificate is fraudulent.
He has been booted off the grounds of a hospital, nearly arrested at a nursing home and ignored by federal agencies when he came with questions.
Even as most celebrities and politicians — including President-elect Donald Trump — have abandoned the thoroughly debunked idea that Obama was born somewhere other than the U.S., Arpaio has only dug in harder, with Zullo at his side.
On Thursday — a month after Arpaio was voted out of office after 24 years — the two men held a news conference at the sheriff’s office in Phoenix to announce what they promised would be new revelations. Local television stations carried it live.
As suspense built, 84-year-old Arpaio took a moment to push back at his many detractors.
“We and anyone who dares to question the document have been maligned, falsely labeled, grossly criticized in the bulk of the media,” he said. “Today, we’re going to set the record straight.”
Zullo proceeded to play a short video called “Nine Points of Forgery,” in which an unnamed stentorian voice alleges various problems with Obama’s birth certificate.
The angle on an “X” used to mark a box in both could not have been made by accident, and had to be a forgery in Obama’s, the voice said, citing a lab in Italy and a handwriting expert in Hawaii, both hired by the sheriff’s office.
It also said a date stamp on the Obama document was either forged or made long after the date and that other letters had “ghosting” on them, suggesting a fake.
A photo from the White House of the birth certificate was obviously altered, Zullo added.
“I really want that to sink in,” he said before starting the video again.
When it was over, Zullo returned to the issue of the date stamps.
Arpaio looked back over his shoulder at the wall where the video was starting up for a third time.
“How ironic that Barack Obama’s birth certificate and Johanna Ah’Nee’s birth certificate, stamped 16 days apart, have the same angle,” the voice boomed.
Someone stifled a cough.
For Arpaio, the evidence was clear. He led a round of applause from the assembled sheriff’s office staff for Zullo, who stepped away from the podium. Behind him, a projector began the video again.
When it was over, Arpaio called for Congress to pick up where he is leaving off.
“Maybe members of Congress will hold some hearings open to the public regarding this matter,” Arpaio said. “If you’re going to hold hearings on under-inflated footballs, why can’t you hold one on this? I can’t believe it.”
Arpaio is coming off a very bad year. Before he was voted out of office, he was charged criminally with contempt of federal court. A series of his strategies to find and arrest violators of immigration laws were reversed, and his department was placed under federal monitoring.
His legal fights have long been financially supported by wide public appeals. The dollars that used to pour in from across the country have dwindled, along with Arpaio’s personal coffers.
In his last few weeks in office — and his last few weeks of access to a public megaphone — Arpaio has turned to a favorite fundraiser of his, the birther cause.
In “The Joe Show,” a 2014 documentary about Arpaio, he and two advisors are shown discussing how to handle the political drawbacks of the birther investigation.
“There ain’t gonna be no damage control,” Arpaio says. “You’ll get more money [donated] than you’ll know what to do with.”
As he stepped from the podium Thursday, he made one final public plea to keep the birth certificate question alive.
“Look at our evidence,” he implored. “Look at it. Just look at it.”
Follow Nigel Duara on Twitter: @nigelduara
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