(CN) – Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff and stalwart supporter of President Donald Trump, has sued The New York Times and a member of its editorial board on libel claims over an op-ed it published in August.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday night in D.C. Federal Court, seeks $147.5 million in damages from the Times over an opinion piece written by Michelle Cottle titled "Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn't Going to Congress: Arpaio's loss in Arizona's Senate Republican primary is a fitting end to the public life of a truly sadistic man."
According to Arpaio, false claims made in the op-ed relating to his career in law enforcement and his stance on immigration have hurt his plans to run for the late Sen. John McCain's seat in 2020, which is currently held by Sen. Jon Kyl.
"These false factual assertions are carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure plaintiff Arpaio both in the law enforcement community – which is centered in this judicial district – as well as with Republican establishment and donors, which is also centered in this judicial district, in order to prevent him from successfully run for U.S. Senate in 2020 or another public office as a Republican," Arpaio claims in his lawsuit.
Arpaio came in third with less than 18 percent of the vote in the Republican primary to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake this year.
Cottle described Arpaio's 24 years as Maricopa County's top lawman in the op-ed as "medieval in its brutality."
"In addition to conducting racial profiling on a mass scale and terrorizing immigrant neighborhoods with gratuitous raids and traffic stops and detentions, he oversaw a jail where mistreatment of inmates was the stuff of legend," Cottle wrote. "Abuses ranged from the humiliating to the lethal. He brought back chain gangs. He forced prisoners to wear pink underwear. He set up an outdoor 'tent city,' which he once referred to as a 'concentration camp,' to hold the overflow of prisoners. Inmates were beaten, fed rancid food, denied medical care (this included pregnant women) and, in at least one case, left battered on the floor to die."
A federal judge found Arpaio guilty of misdemeanor contempt of court in July 2017 after he ignored a court order to stop detaining undocumented immigrants. Less than a month later, Trump pardoned him.
Larry Klayman, Arpaio's attorney and chairman of the conservative Freedom Watch, said that the Times must be held accountable for libel.
"The NYT and its hate filled reporter, Michelle Cottle, will be held accountable for their libelous acts, not just to bring about justice for my client, but all those who on a daily basis, are demeaned, trashed and harmed by this venomous leftist publication and its staff," Klayman said in a statement.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the publication will "vigorously defend against the lawsuit."
The lawsuit comes a day after Los Angeles attorney Christopher Caldwell was appointed to defend a federal judge’s decision to dismiss Arpaio’s contempt case but not to expunge his record, despite Trump’s pardon.
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