Did Joe Arpaio, nicknamed "America's Toughest Sheriff", pass away? No, that's not true. The story was published by a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters and Republicans into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire when you actually click them. Articles from the site are frequently copied by foreign-run fake news websites. The people liking and sharing these stories are enriching foreign website operators or a liberal from Maine via the ad revenue generated with the content which is probably not what they expected or wanted.
The death hoax first appeared in an article published on ConservativeTears.com on May 6, 2020 titled "Joe Arpaio, America's Toughest Sheriff, Dead at 89" (archived here) which opened:
Joe Arpaio, former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, has died at the age of 89. Best known for being sued for various violations of the Constitution, not investigating sexual crimes against children, buying a tank, ignoring court orders, being incoherent at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and spying on a Federal judge's wife, the former Sheriff was seeking to be back in the public eye.
The former sheriff was focused on being re-elected, believing the voters of the county to be gullible fools who missed him. Since Arizona voted for Donald Trump in 2016, he definitely had a chance.
Arpaio reportedly collapsed when he tried to chase a brown person out of his neighborhood in the Maryvale district of Phoenix.
The story appeared on a site with several disclaimers saying nothing on the page was real and under a category actually named "Death Hoax".
Arpaio took to Twitter to submit video evidence of being alive:
Rumors on Social Media. "Joe Arpaio passes away at age 89". Fake news is disgusting, during virus pandemic. My supporters inquired whether I was DEAD. Watch the video below showing me holding today's Arizona Republic with today's date. I am strong, healthy, alive and kicking. pic.twitter.com/RgKjjOgALz-- Sheriff Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) May 18, 2020
Yes Sheriff is alive and well! Get your signed Sheriff Joe Photo. $20.00 shipped anywhere in the world! Click the link below for your photo.https://t.co/7Sk7n8RKt5-- Sheriff Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) May 18, 2020
At checkout leave a not what you would like Sheriff to say. pic.twitter.com/2Y2gMUUbrj
The https://t.co/Ur2oSBdvPh liberal website reports despicable headline against me, with the headline "Joe Arpaio, America's Toughest Sheriff, dead at 89". Hundreds of people concerned about me, especially during the virus pandemic.-- Sheriff Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) May 19, 2020
I am alive healthy and going for a 7th term. pic.twitter.com/R6xBr8iOWR
The site that posted the death hoax is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run by self-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine along with a loose confederation of friends and allies. He runs several websites and Facebook pages with visible satire disclaimers everywhere. They mostly publish made-up stories with headlines specifically created to trigger Republicans, conservatives and evangelical Christians into angrily sharing or commenting on the story on Facebook without actually reading the full article, exposing them to mockery and ridicule by fans of the sites and pages.
Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":
The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.
Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites who omit the satire disclaimer and other hints the stories are fake. One of the most persistent networks of such sites is run by a man from Pakistan named Kashif Shahzad Khokhar (aka "DashiKashi") who has spammed hundreds of such stolen stories into conservative and right-wing Facebook pages in order to profit from the ad revenue.
When fact checkers point this out to the people liking and sharing these copycat stories some of them get mad at the fact checkers instead of directing their anger at the foreign spammers or the liberal satire writers. Others send a polite "thank you" note, which is much appreciated.
NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes conservativetears.com as:
One in a network of sites that publish false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news, run by hoax perpetrator Christopher Blair.
According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.