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Sheriff Joe Arpaio headlines GOP event in Fresno, continues birther claims

Sheriff Joe Arpaio headlines GOP event in Fresno. Friday September 29, 2017 (KMPH)

Joe Arpaio, who was pardoned in August by President Donald Trump, addresses a Republican Party event in Fresno, California. Ahead of the event, he took questions from reporters.

Arpaio spent a large portion of the press event talking about his plans to continue his investigation of former President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Arpaio, who has been pushing the fake birth certificate claim since 2011, rejected the idea that his claims have been "debunked."

"I'm not some guy just making this up. I'm not that stupid," he said.

Saying he would continue his effort to prove President Obama was not born in the United States, Arpaio said, "Stay tuned."

Extensive preparations were made by local police ahead of the controversial former-Maricopa County Sheriff's visit.

KMPH's Alex Lehnert reported on the extensive police presence around the event. There are at least four security checkpoints and lots of protesters are expected.

Arpaio critics and fans have been looking forward to the event since June when Arpaio was booked. The local GOP is thrilled to have him as the keynote. But the head of the Democratic National Committee calls the event "shameful."

Arpaio proudly told reporters that he is "not out of politics. I'm back in."

He said he intends to back Omar Navarro, the Republican challenger to long-time California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

During his 24 years in office, he created a tent city jail, forced inmates to wear pink underwear and socks and work while in jail. He became well-known during Donald Trump's presidential campaign as America's toughest sheriff.

Arpaio defended himself against what he has often called a "witch hunt" against him, which resulted in his conviction for criminal contempt.

"After eight years, all they could get me on is a misdemeanor. There's something wrong with our system, believe me," he said. He responded to accusations of racial profile, saying that prosecutors and the media "[threw] the race card."

Back in June, the Fresno County Republican Party extended an invitation to Sheriff Joe to speak at its' dinner. He accepted.

Fred Vanderhoof heads up the Fresno County GOP. "The theme that we always like to have is honor veterans and law enforcement," he said.

Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt for violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. He was pardoned by President Trump in late August.

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez told the L.A. Times, "It is shameful that the Fresno County Republican Party is fundraising off one of the nation's most notorious agents of racism and bigotry."

Vanderhoof disagrees. The racist tag is just not accurate and so we wanted to set the record straight. We heard there could be some protesters. We'll just have to wait and see. You know we changed the name to the First and Second Amendments celebration because we realize there's gonna be protesters."

Proceeds from the event will go to the local GOP's "get out the vote" effort and radio advertising.

The venue has been changed to Sunnyside Events in southeast Fresno. The Friday night event is sold out. Tickets ranged in price from $70 to $1500.

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