During a speech to the National Sheriffs Association, which represents about 20,000 law enforcement officials across the U.S., Attorney General Jeff Sessions veered off from his prepared remarks to praise the “Anglo-American” historical origins of the sheriff.
A video shared on Twitter by VICE reporter Tess Owen, shows the apparent improvisation from the prepared remarks distributed ahead of time to reporters:
“The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” Sessions told the audience. “We must never erode this historic office.”
The comments quickly raised eyebrows on social media, where commenters perceived the reference as racist in light of the attorney general’s racially problematic history.
The sheriff indeed originated in medieval England, and the name derives from Anglo-Saxon words for the guardian, or reeve, of a county, or shire. English colonists brought the tradition to America and elected their own sheriffs in the 1600s.
Various right-wing fringe movements promote the legal fallacy that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the United States.
Watch Sessions’ remarks in the video below:
"The office of Sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office" : Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking at the National Sheriff's Association winter conference in DC. @vicenews pic.twitter.com/gPS6AbkS30
— Tess Owen (@misstessowen) February 12, 2018
Anglo-American heritage? He said those words. Out loud. In front of other people, a mic, and cameras.
Yet there won’t be an outcry. At best “poorly-chosen words” from the Party of No (spine).
— Rage Against The Regime (@TheBluFalcon) February 12, 2018
They aren't even dog whistling anymore, they're just coming right out and saying it
— Amber J. (@seaword2014) February 12, 2018
— ESPR.Media (@_ESPRMedia) February 12, 2018
It's just that for Jefferson Beauregaurd Sessions the halcyon days of Sheriff Bull Connor are the happiest memories of his life. pic.twitter.com/BCYQggY8Ha
— Raymond T. Berle (@raymondtberle) February 12, 2018
— Monica Perry (@jaffobsession) February 12, 2018
"AngloAmerican Heritage" I wonder if he knows that Sheriff comes from the Arabic word Shareef ( the honorable one )
— Rami Nashashibi (@RamiNashashibi) February 12, 2018
— Stay Woke, Resist (@gredins) February 12, 2018