Editorial: The Villanueva saga just gets odder and more destructive

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Inspector General Max Huntsman denies the Holocaust but gave no evidence. Huntsman called the claim untrue.


On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sent the Times editorial board a letter explaining that he would “respectfully decline your invitation to participate in your editorial board’s endorsement process for sheriff” and “obviously will not be participating in any associated interviews.”

The letter, oddly, was received during our interview with him at 9 a.m., conducted via Zoom, as part of our endorsement process for the June election.

The interview itself was even odder, most notably for the out-of-nowhere, evidence-free assertion that county Inspector General Max Huntsman is a Holocaust denier.


Huntsman, in response to a Times editorial writer’s question about Villanueva’s accusation, said the allegation is completely false. “Of course the Holocaust was real,” he said. He later sent the county Board of Supervisors a letter advising members of the conversation. The assertion is “such a deeply offensive allegation that I wanted you to hear from me that I have never denied the Holocaust,” Huntsman wrote to the board.

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s stance against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for deputies exposes his disregard for those he is supposed to serve.

Nov. 2, 2021

We have been presented with absolutely no evidence that Huntsman, who is tasked with monitoring and overseeing the Sheriff’s Department, is a Holocaust denier. The question this episode raises is about the sheriff: What kind of person — what kind of elected official and what kind of law enforcement officer — makes such a claim about someone and insists that he has proof but refuses to share it?

That’s what Villanueva did. We had asked him what event precipitated a rift between him and the board early in his tenure, and he said it was his defeat of incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell in 2018, and then for whatever reason he added this non sequitur:

“You do realize that Max Huntsman, one, he’s a Holocaust denier. I don’t know if you’re aware of that. I have it from two separate sources. And he filed a complaint against me because I refer to him as Max-Gustaf Huntsman, his actual legal name, that’s on his [State] Bar card. And he filed a complaint to the — I thought that was kind of humorous.”

The statement was so bizarre that we quickly moved on, but then came back to it. What evidence did he have?

“We have it from two very credible sources,” he said. “And I’m not going to divulge them at this time. But…you give a lot of credibility that he has a title, inspector general, and oh, my God, it sounds like so important and credible. But he’s just a political appointee from the board. Nothing more.”


L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Inspector General Max Huntsman denies the Holocaust but gave no evidence. Huntsman called the claim untrue.

April 1, 2022

But, an editorial board member pointed out, that’s different from being a Holocaust denier, which is what he just claimed. His response:

“There’s a lot you need to learn about. And I think you need to start doing your own homework on it.”

An editorial board member then asked why that’s our homework to do when he is the one who raised the issue and won’t back it up.

To which Villanueva answered: “Well, I think we have the information and in due time, we’ll release it. But I think you need to do your homework because you don’t.”

Villanueva’s primary task as a law enforcement officer is to collect facts and evidence and present them to prosecutors so courts can make rulings to protect public safety and mete out proper justice, but he seems unable to discern actual facts or evidence.

It’s finally on, for real, between Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and that’s both bad and good.

March 5, 2019

The baffling exchange pales in comparison with allegations being investigated against the sheriff and his department of civil rights violations, misconduct and abuse of deceased suspects’ families, and his awful record of financial mismanagement and fecklessness in protecting public safety.

But it’s a useful window into his character. He’s the man who promised “truth and reconciliation” to people harmed by the Sheriff’s Department, only to make clear later that promise was meant only for deputies who had previously been fired for misconduct.


He has accused the people assigned to oversee his department of crimes for doing their jobs, has created a unit to investigate his critics, has claimed credit for cracking down on wage theft while apparently recovering only $450, has warned of rising crime while bragging that crime is down. His lack of transparency over fatal shootings by deputies led to the first L.A. County coroner inquests in decades. His erratic behavior drew an admonition from the cities that contract for his department’s law enforcement services, and a demand from the Civilian Oversight Commission that he resign. He inspired a county ballot measure and state legislation to give monitors subpoena power over him. The state attorney general opened a civil rights investigation against his department for patterns and practices of unconstitutional policing. Activists are seeking county power to impeach him.

Villanueva’s allegation against Huntsman sounds deranged, but it’s deeper than that. He seems willing to say anything to smear an official who challenges his conduct in office. In any event, he is dishonorable and undeserving — of being sheriff or even of wearing a law enforcement uniform.