The Southern Poverty Law Center has obtained exclusive audio of Saturday night’s roast of controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The roast was the finale of last weekend’s Western Conservative Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican from the Scottsdale area, had conservatives chortling with one joke after another about racial profiling, “rounding up Hispanics” and much more. For good measure, he mocked the controversy around SB 1062, the so-called religious freedom bill, taking a shot at Muslims in the process. And he mocked the federal monitor appointed to oversee Sheriff Arpaio’s operations after a judge determined that his department engaged in racial profiling and illegal detentions of Latinos.
It’s not uncommon for roasters to push boundaries. People joke about things that might otherwise be off-limits – sex, old age and a person’s personality and appearance. This was different.
Kavanagh, who made headlines last year for trying to criminalize bathroom use by transgender people, used Latinos as a punch line in one racist joke after another, and the crowd lapped it up. The 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. Watch:
Then he pivoted to an immigration joke, “Sheriff Joe is the kind of guy that you gotta love. As long as you have papers.”
Soon he was making light of the controversy around the “religious freedom” bill SB 1062, which would allow businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples. Kavanagh, who supports the bill, dismissed the criticism with a joke at the expense of Muslims and Arpaio:
Now 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.’
The crowd reacted with some shock, but not about the Muslim remark. Arpaio covered his face with his napkin. Kavanagh quipped that it “wasn’t quite a burka.”
Further along, Kavanagh made what could have just been a funny joke about Arpaio’s advanced age: “Sheriff Joe served in the Spanish-American War.” But he couldn’t resist taking it in a racist direction and making light of the racial profiling and unjustified detentions carried out by Arpaio’s department:
Oh, Korea? See, all these years I figured he was rounding up Hispanics because he had a grudge from the Spanish-American War.
So if you were in the Korean War, how come you’re not rounding up Asians?
And he just kept at it, saying that when he goes out to eat with Arpaio, “most of the waitstaff and cooks dive out the back window.” “And when they don’t, I never know what the hell’s in my food,” he continued.
Later in his routine, Kavanagh dismissed the federal monitor overseeing Arpaio as “federal overreach” resulting from a “kangaroo court.” He said it was like “getting a detention in high school.”
He seemed to strike a nerve when he directly asked the sheriff, “Is the federal monitor still gonna let you do them sweeps?” “I’ll respond to you when you get done, that’s enough,” Arpaio responded dryly after a long pause. He then hinted that Kavanagh should wrap things up.
But Kavanagh got a show of support from the audience to continue and proceeded to joke about changes that the federal monitor would enact. “Just to show you how unreasonable the federal monitor is,” they’re demanding that “when 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.” And, he continued, “the sign over the booking intake door in the jail will have to have ‘welcome’ and just not ‘bienvenido.”
“And with that, adios,” Kavanagh concluded. Adios indeed. Conservatives can say goodbye to a growing voting bloc if they, like Kavanagh and Arpaio, continue to dehumanize immigrants and treat Latinos like second-class citizens.