Ex-Sheriff Seeking $147.5 Million in Defamation Suit Against NY Times

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces newly launched program aimed at providing security around schools in Anthem, Arizona, U.S. January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Laura Segall/File Photo

News & Updates

Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a lawsuit seeking $147.5 million in damages against The New York Times and a member of its editorial board over an column published by the Times on August 28 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.” 

The lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claims that the opinion piece contains “several false, defamatory factual assertions” that were specifically and maliciously intended to damage and injure Arpaio. The lawsuit also claims that the piece harmed his chances in running in the 2020 Senate election and caused him financial damage. 

A spokesperson for the Times told Politico in an email that the outlet intends to defend against the lawsuit. 

Politico The Hill <em>Arpaio v. Cottle and NYT </em>Complaint

Opinion & Analysis

Arpaio’s Suit Will Face Difficulty

Jonathan Peters writes in CJR that it will be difficult for Arpaio, a public figure, to prove that the Times and its writer knowingly made false statements or made them in reckless disregard of the truth. He notes other impediments to the suits: that the First amendment gives protection to opinion, that the statements could be proven, and that the Times hasn’t lost a libel suit since the early 1960s. Peters looks at other libel suits filed or resolved in the past year.

Lawsuit is “Frivolous” 

Joe Setyon of Reason addresses Arpaio’s claims in the lawsuit and writes: “The language is harsh, but that doesn’t make it any less true.”


For an explainer on libel, click here.