PHOENIX (AP) — Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio alleged in a defamation lawsuit earlier this week against three news organizations that CNN made no effort to correct anchor Chris Cuomo’s erroneous statement that the lawman was a convicted felon.
But CNN released a statement Thursday saying Cuomo corrected his error on air within minutes of making it during the Jan. 10 broadcast. “He is convicted of a misdemeanor. He’s not a convicted felon, like I said,” Cuomo said. “Meaningful distinction. He got pardoned.”
The former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix said Cuomo’s correction has no bearing on the case. “Whether he apologized and corrected it, he still threw it out there for the whole world to see,” Arpaio said. “He should have known better to begin with.”
CNN said an online companion story about Arpaio didn’t contain Cuomo’s correction, though the story has been updated to include the anchor’s on-air correction and a written preface that points out Cuomo rectified the error during the same show.
“Obviously if CNN had been made aware of the oversight in the digital posting it would have corrected that immediately too,” CNN’s statement said. “There is nothing here that would support a claim for defamation by Arpaio.”
Arpaio filed the lawsuit earlier this week against CNN, Huffington Post and Rolling Stone magazine seeking $300 million. He alleged inaccurate references by the news organizations to his criminal case have hurt his chances at possibly running in 2020 for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by John McCain.
As a result of the inaccurate statements, the lawsuit alleged Arpaio has been the subject of ridicule, his reputation has been severely harmed and his chances of raising campaign funds have been damaged.
The former sheriff’s 2017 criminal contempt of court conviction for disobeying a judge’s order to stop his immigration patrols was a misdemeanor, not a felony. A pardon by President Donald Trump spared Arpaio a possible jail sentence.
He was defeated in the 2016 sheriff’s race and finished in last place during this summer’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake. Arpaio, 86, has said he doesn’t know for sure whether he’ll run in the 2020 Senate race to fill McCain’s former post.
Larry Klayman, an attorney representing Arpaio in the lawsuit, said he stands by the claim that CNN made no effort to correct the story. “We have no evidence an effort was made,” Klayman said.
The lawsuit also focuses on a Huffington Post story in November that erroneously said Arpaio had been sent to prison for contempt of court.
While the lawsuit said Huffington Post made no effort to correct the error, a correction at the bottom of the story says a previous version of the article mistakenly indicated Arpaio went to prison for his conviction.
Huffington Post didn’t respond to an email Thursday seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit notes that Rolling Stone had corrected an error in a November story that erroneously said Arpaio was an ex-felon.
That story contains an editor’s note that said the magazine regretted the error and that the story was updated to reflect that Arpaio’s conviction was a misdemeanor, not a felony.
The lawsuit also said anyone who read the incorrect version of the Rolling Stone story still wouldn’t know that it was erroneous to call Arpaio an ex-felon.
A message left Thursday at Rolling Stone seeking comment on the lawsuit wasn’t immediately returned.
Follow Jacques Billeaud at www.twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud .