What do Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Chanel the East African crowned crane, and Pierce the African crested porcupine have in common? They were the stars of the Arizona delegation's warm-up luncheon at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.
"I do have one friend in the media," the controversial Maricopa County sheriff joked to the crowd, referring to Mike Brookhead, the conservative talk show host who introduced him. Arpaio is famous for "tent cities" for county prisoners and he is under indictment for racial profiling in search of illegal aliens. "When you're high profile, people sue you," he shrugged.
The event in connection with the Republican National Convention drew an array of reporters lured by the prospect of Sheriff Joe flanked by elephants.
The elephants were outside of the camera shot inside the zoo's banquet facility, but never fear. Bomani, the martial eagle was on display. He stared accusingly at the crowd of delegates and Arpaio security guards as they heard about the dead mice he gets as treats for good behavior. (They are kept frozen and thawed a day before they are proffered.)
At one point a South American porcupine named Pita was desperately attempting to climb on his banquet tables. But Arpaio took no notice, continuing to autograph posters that said “Wanted: Toughest Lawmen, Joe Arpaio, Wyatt Earp.”
Never one to shy from fans or the spotlight, he also offered himself to a scrum of TV cameras. "Are you hurting the party?" asked one reporter, who added that Mitt Romney is trying to moderate his tone on immigration. "If I'm so hot, why do they all want my endorsement?" Arpaio responded.
"Are you hurting the Hispanic vote?"
"Sometimes you just have to do your job," Arpaio said. "You can't please everybody."
Not that he doesn’t want to. "I'm a nice guy," he said. "I'm not a politician. Oh wait. I guess I am a politician."