Sheriff Joe Arpaio looked out at a wall of television cameras and started to raise his voice. The rant that followed was confused, rambling and aimed directly at President Obama.
“Show. Us. The. Mircofilm,” he demanded. “I said it a while back. Show. Us. The. Microfilm. And we’ll all go back home and forget this! Where is the microfilm? Where is the microfilm? Is it in Hawaii? The Department of Health? What’s the big secret?”
Even for a notoriously eccentric Arizona politician like Arpaio, the spectacle he created on Tuesday at a news conference in Phoenix was on a whole other level.
For months, the sheriff has been promoting the fringe conspiracy theory of birtherism, which claims Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake and therefore he is ineligible to be president. But Arpaio took it to a grand scale with his latest stunt, promising to reveal “shocking” information about the document.
What he and his “investigator” ultimately presented, however, was something less than shocking. They spun new webs of the conspiracy, alleging secret codes were hidden in the birth certificate and claiming they found an elderly witness who could decipher the cryptography. It was the latest tweak to a theory that has long been debunked but remains kept alive by small pockets of conservative activists and writers.]
Mike Zullo, Arpaio’s volunteer “cold case” investigator who has been looking into the birth certificate for 10 months, told the crowd of local journalists that he and the sheriff had been threatened and were possibly in danger for uncovering the information. He said Arpaio personally assigned an armed deputy to tag along with him on a trip to Hawaii in May to protect him from potential threats. Zullo showed photos of Hawaiian police cars that he said were sent to intimidate them as they sleuthed around the islands looking for clues.
“It’s time for this charade to stop,” Zullo said. He claimed a grand a coverup was afoot. “This is a real long time to be looking into something…Eventually something’s gotta give.”
Arpaio, a Republican, was first elected to office in 1992 after promising common sense law enforcement. But now at 80 and running for his sixth term, he has aligned himself with the birthers and taken unarguably the strangest turn of his career. He dove head first into birtherism in September when he first assigned his “Cold Case Posse” to look into the certificate. From there, he has just kept following the birthers deeper into the fringe.
The group believes Obama somehow is not a natural born U.S. citizen and so is ineligible to be president. His Hawaiian birth certificate, they say, is a fake. Newspapers that reported his birth at the time are part of the conspiracy. No amount of evidence is enough to convince them that he is legitimately their president.
Local reporters peppered Arpaio and Zullo with plenty of skeptical questions, including about the role of well known conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi in the investigation. Corsi, the men revealed, has been an integral part of it since the beginning. He even went to Hawaii with the investigators and helped them interview witnesses, Zullo said. Corsi was in the audience at the news conference, too.