WASHINGTON — Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, an outspoken Donald Trump supporter whose recent tweet calling for “pitchforks and torches” sparked outrage, said Wednesday he stands by those comments.
He urged voters to stay “actively involved” in the election, but didn’t expand on what he meant by his earlier reference to the old-fashioned implements.
“(The tweet) contradicts prevailing liberal orthodoxy,” the Milwaukee County sheriff said in an interview. “The founding fathers … wanted a government based on self-rule, and unfortunately had to start a revolution to get out from under the heavy fist of King George. Why was that not so radical?”
Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Clarke joked about keeping “an eye on” reporters whom he has previously blamed for blowing his words out of proportion. The sheriff, joined Wednesday by gun law experts, said background checks for gun buyers are nothing more than a “slippery slope toward total gun confiscation.” He called gun-free zones “killing fields.”
The conservative sheriff, a ardent second amendment advocate, lit up the Twittersphere Saturday when he wrote “pitchforks and torches time,” with a photoshopped picture of angry protesters holding old-age weapons. That tweet — and a subsequent blog post in which Clarke said he “wasn’t speaking in code” — drew national headlines and an editorial from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calling the “attention-seeking” sheriff “irresponsible.”
In an interview after Wednesday’s event, Clarke doubled-down on his comments and said he always speaks “very clearly.”
“I say what I mean and I mean what I say,” he said.
The comments come at a time when the Republican nominee has warned of “large scale voter fraud” and made his own calls for action to prevent a “rigged election.”
Clarke, a Democrat who is not backing Hillary Clinton, first drew headlines this past summer after an explosive speech at the Republican National Convention where he called the Black Lives Matter movement “anarchy.” Since then, he has appeared on numerous talk shows to support Trump and condemn the Obama administration.
Last month, New York’s largest police union named Clarke its “Person of the Year,” citing his unflinching support of the law enforcement community. Clarke was first elected sheriff of Milwaukee County in 2002 and has been re-elected overwhelmingly three times.
“Leave the personalities out of it,” he said of the upcoming election. “This is about the survival of republic, the survival of the Constitution which is being shredded right now.”