A Western Conservatives Conference “comedy roast” meant to skewer Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week instead turned into a stream of racist jokes from an Arizona state lawmaker.
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) posted an audio recording of the roast while condemning Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh (R) — a champion of Arizona’s anti-immigration law SB 1070, the vetoed anti-gay discriminatory bill, and a bill banning transgender people from using public bathrooms.
He has his match in Arpaio, who is best known for immigration enforcement tactics that include rampant racial profiling in immigration sweeps and prisoner abuse (Arpaio once joked Maricopa’s Tent City was a “concentration camp.”) Now that a judge found his office engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling, Arpaio has a court-appointed monitor to prevent future law enforcement discrimination.
“Kavanagh was acting like a right-wing shock jock, not a legislator,” SPLC campaign director Josh Glasstetter said. Kavanagh won’t apologize, though. “I was roasting Sheriff Arpaio,” he said, according to USA Today. “That was parody on him. That should be quite obvious.”
Here are five of Kavanagh’s most offensive remarks:
1. Undocumented workers: “Usually when we walk into a restaurant, most of the wait staff and cooks dive out the back window. And when they don’t, I never know what the hell is in my food. There’s a great one. Get him, sic him!”
2. Birtherism: “He’s going to announce pretty damn soon that we now have definitive proof that Barack Obama is an alien. Not a foreign alien. but an alien alien. Arpaio has been doing digital analysis of Barack Obama’s ears. Anybody who watches Star Trek knows what a Vulcan ear looks like, at the very least Shrek,” he said in a YouTube clip posted by a birther website.
3. Racial profiling: “I’m not the federal monitor. How many Hispanics did you pull over on the way over here, Arpaio?” Kavanagh said later that because of the monitor, “Sheriff Joe sends his new deputies to the academy, he will no longer just train them to do the Miranda warning in Spanish, he will have to teach it in English too […] The sign over the booking intake door in the jail will have to have ‘welcome’ and just not ‘bienvenido.”
4. Religious discrimination: ““A lot of people claim that SB 1062 is gonna cause discrimination based upon religion in Arizona. And I scoffed at that until tonight. When a Muslim waiter serving up here walked up to Sheriff Joe, wouldn’t give him his dinner, ’cause he said ‘I don’t serve swine.’” Here, he was referring to the anti-gay discrimination bill that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer just vetoed.
SPLC noted that Arpaio responded by covering his face with a napkin, and Kavanagh quipped, it “wasn’t quite a burka.”
5. Immigrant detainees: “All these years, I figured he was rounding up Hispanics because he had a grudge against the Spanish-American War. So, if you were in the Korean War, how come you are not rounding up Asians?”
At one point, Kavanagh compared cancer awareness to how Arpaio regularly dehumanizes detainees by putting them on display, parading them through the streets of Phoenix, and forcing them to wear pink underwear. “They trash Sheriff Joe when he puts pink underwear on his prisoners,” he said. “Do you see them trashing breast cancer awareness over their pink ribbons.”
The roast made light of Arpaio’s record, but Kavanagh’s “jokes and laughter, caught in an unguarded moment, reveal why conservatives have such a difficult time connecting with Latinos – there is a fundamental lack of respect,” SPLC wrote.