Fighting Ex-Felon Label, Arpaio Fires on News Outlets

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a Jan. 26, 2016, news conference at the Roundhouse Gymnasium in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Leveling defamation claims against three news outlets and their reporters, pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio accused the journalists in a federal complaint Monday of overstating his criminal history.

President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in 2017 after the former Maricopa County sheriff was found guilty of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order directing his office to stop detaining people it suspected of being in the country illegally. 

But Arpaio, who notes he intends to again run for Senate in Arizona in 2020, says CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Kevin Robillard at the Huffington Post and Rolling Stone’s Tessa Stuart made his transgressions seem worse than they actually were.

Arpaio says Cuomo called him a “convicted felon,” even though Arpaio was convicted only of a misdemeanor, while Robillard said Arpaio was “sent to prison for contempt of court” when Trump in fact pardoned him before his scheduled sentencing. Stuart, meanwhile, referred to Arpaio an “ex-felon,” an error the magazine corrected shortly after the story published.

The complaint claims HuffPost has taken “no efforts” to correct Robillard’s article, though an archived version of the article from Nov. 9 shows the site included a correction at the bottom that notes Arpaio did not spend time in prison.  

Arpaio claims the articles will hurt his image within the “Republican establishment,” scuttling his future political career.

“Defendants are aware of these prospective business relationships and thus, given their malice and leftist enmity of Arpaio sought to destroy them with the publication of the subject defamatory publications,” the complaint states.

Represented by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Arpaio seeks more than $300 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

In a statement, Klayman said the lawsuit is part of an effort to “stand up” to the press.

“It’s time that someone stood up to the left’s ‘Fake News’ media, which is bent on destroying anyone who is a supporter of the president and in particular Sheriff Arpaio,” Klayman said. “My client will not be bullied by the likes of Jeff Zucker, Chris Cuomo, the Huffington Post, and Rolling Stone, as he alone has the courage to stand up not just for himself, the president of the United States, but also fair-minded and ethical Americans.”

It is not the first time Arpaio has gone after news outlets in court, as he filed a libel suit against The New York Times in October. Arpaio is also represented by Klayman in that lawsuit.

A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment on the suit. The other media outlets did not return a request for comment.

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