Emotion surrounding the controversial SB 1070 legislation has led to a feud of sorts, with Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and activist Isabel Garcia on one side, and Journal Broadcast Group on the other.
After days of verbal attacks by conservative talk-show host Jon Justice, Dupnik, an outspoken critic of SB 1070, requested an interview with the KQTH FM 104.1 host. As the conversation progressed, Dupnik proclaimed that talk radio was "partly responsible" for the polarizing nature of the issue.
In an interview later with the Tucson Weekly, Dupnik went further.
"I think America has been revved into high anger, and it's been done over the years primarily by radio talk-show hosts," Dupnik said. "... They've been basically bombarded with, 'Hate America; do away with taxes; politicians are corrupt.' I think as a result, we're starting to see some of the products of that anger. I think people who preach that philosophy are partly responsible for some of the stuff that's being channeled out of government."
Dupnik does not lay the same blame on media outlets with a liberal bias.
"It's right-wing that I'm talking about," Dupnik said. "They play to the anger of the people and the paranoia that's going on. That's why most incumbents are having difficulty today, including (Sen. John) McCain. I just think people ought to be more responsible. You have to take into consideration what's best for America."
However, Justice said that a proclamation by Dupnik that he and his deputies wouldn't enforce SB 1070—unless forced to do so— does not fall under the "best for America" category.
"We hashed out what he said in public, and I called into question his statements, and to be honest, I felt like he never answered any of the questions," Justice said. "I was giving him a hard time and said I was embarrassed he was our sheriff.
"I don't care what Sheriff Dupnik thinks. The way I see it, he doesn't like that people are calling him out and holding him responsible. He didn't like that I was calling it like it was, and being honest about my assessment—and that's what a majority of people are saying, and the way the majority of people see it."
Justice has fallen back on a familiar refrain of conservative talk regarding the illegal-immigration debate: He said liberal media bias has tilted the conversation against the legislation.
"I don't think I've seen the media (before) get the facts so wrong," Justice said. "I don't think most of the media even bothered to read the bill. They grabbed onto the talking points of those who opposed it and ran with it. We're still getting information from the media and (the anti-SB 1070) leadership that are saying things about the bill that are not true. I put the media largely to blame for why this whole SB 1070 controversy spiraled out of control in the first place."
Meanwhile, immigration activist Isabel Garcia, of Derechos Humanos, has long refused to appear on Jon Justice's radio program, but she's also taken her case a bit further: She also refuses to talk to KGUN Channel 9, which, like KQTH, is owned by Journal Broadcast Group.
Garcia answered KGUN reporter Craig Smith's question during a recent press conference by saying that she would not speak with KGUN, and has personal animosity against the ABC affiliate because of its ties to Justice. She also made a vague reference about KGUN "jumping on the bandwagon when they were trying to get rid of me," presumably a reference to the fact that Garcia is also a county employee; she serves as the Pima County legal defender, a fact that rankles some conservatives like Justice.
Garcia did not return numerous requests to discuss her boycott prior to our deadline.
While both Justice and KGUN fall under the Journal umbrella, Justice is a talk-show host with a political bent, whereas KGUN's news product is not supposed to be slanted.
"Justice is a voice of the right," said KGUN news director Forrest Carr in a statement printed on kgun9.com. "Yes, he does work for 104.1 The Truth, a radio station owned by Journal Broadcast Group, which also owns KGUN9. Yes, Justice sometimes does something newsworthy, or has a newsworthy guest on his show—and when that happens, KGUN9 News may choose to cover it. Justice does not work for KGUN9 News. Justice does not participate in or influence KGUN9 News coverage decisions. Justice does not take orders from KGUN9 News. KGUN9 News does not endorse the views of Jon Justice.
"(Garcia) gave a speech in which she called for 'real dialogue' on immigration. But now she is taking steps to restrict that dialogue and to cut KGUN9's viewers out of it. Even the most reactionary elements of the far right wing have not attempted to exclude journalists, and their audiences, from the conversation. How do you have a 'dialogue' if you cut out those with whom you disagree? Garcia had it right the first time. Real dialogue is exactly what's needed. We urge her to re-examine her own words and to keep the commitment she made. KGUN9's invitation to her and to Derechos Humanos to participate in our coverage remains open."
On a separate note, Dupnik is less than pleased with a SB 1070-related news story that ran on KGUN, and said he had to engage in damage control to clear up the issue.
"They did a very lengthy interview with me, and then they only showed the parts that were kind of dramatic," Dupnik said. "I had to have a press conference the next day saying we may be opposed to this bill, but we're still arresting people in greater numbers than any other state and local agency in this state. We're going to continue to do that, but why should we burden the local system and local taxpayers? It accomplishes nothing. Until we secure the border, nobody is going to have any impact on illegal immigration."