Larry Klayman, a right-wing activist and attorney, and “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio, a failed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, have filed a legal complaint against The New York Times alleging that the paper defamed Arpaio by publishing a column about his loss in which writer Michelle Cottle, a member of the Times’ editorial board, called Arpaio a “sadistic man.” The lawsuit seeks $147.5 million in damages.
The complaint, filed and published on Klayman’s website yesterday, asserts that while the column “is strategically titled as an opinion piece” it asserts that Arpaio “was directly responsible for numerous inmate deaths during his time as sheriff of Maricopa County” and was “directly responsible for numerous abused, assaulted, and battered inmates during his time as sheriff of Maricopa County.”
Cottle’s column factually stated: “Inmates [in Arpaio’s jail] 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.” In fact, Arpaio has faced multiple lawsuits for inmate deaths in facilities he oversaw in his time as sheriff, and for denying medical care to a pregnant woman that resulted in the death of her child during labor.
Klayman and Arpaio allege the Times knew that the statements were false at the time of publication and that the claims had caused Arpaio “widespread ridicule and humiliation” in the law enforcement community and with potential campaign donors in the event that Arpaio pursues public office again. “Plaintiff Arpaio has been harmed as to his reputation as ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’,” the complaint alleges.
Arpaio and Klayman take issue with the fact that Cottle wrote that Arpaio’s actions as sheriff “often crossed the line into the not-so-legal.” Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring court orders not to single out drivers for traffic stops based on their perceived ethnicity and not to detain immigrants on the sole basis they lacked legal citizenship. President Donald Trump later pardoned Arpaio.
Klayman is the founder of Judicial Watch, which he left in 2003 to launch an ultimately failed bid for a U.S. Senate seat from Florida. After his electoral loss, Klayman founded his current organization, Freedom Watch. He believes that the Clintons ordered assassinations, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is a “legal terrorist,” and that liberals will literally decapitate conservatives. For nearly a year, Klayman has begged Trump to appoint him as special counsel so that he can imprison Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.