The acquittal of former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham is more evidence of a conspiracy by Arizona's press and political machinery to smear him as "a two-bit idiot" and remove him from office, say Mecham's biographer and his youngest son.
The two were in Salt Lake City on Friday promoting the book "Mecham: Arizona's Fighting Governor" by Sammy S. Jenkins Sr.Jenkins said he was a bit surprised that Mecham was acquitted this week on charges that he and his brother illegally hid a $350,000 campaign loan.
"That's because you never know in Arizona where the political system ends and the judicial system begins," he said. "But I looked at the case, and they really didn't have anything on him. They were just stretching like they always have, and the jury agreed."
Mecham's youngest son, Lance, who works for a computer firm in Orem, said the press has never given an accurate picture of his father.
"That's hard on us, because the man depicted in the press would bother me too," he said. "But like they say, you could fill volumes with what you don't read in the newspapers. The press has been guilty of selective journalism, or yellow journalism."
Jenkins says that false picture of Mecham is part of a large conspiracy. "The conspiracy came from special interest groups . . . from the Phoenix 40 ( group of powerful businessmen) . . . from politicians such as the attorney general . . . and from the media," he said.
Jenkins said he decided to write his book - which he claims tells the true story about Mecham - because what he read in the press did not match the research he did about Mecham for a separate book about top Arizona politicians.
Because Mecham wouldn't go along with the state's establishment and planned to clean up corruption, Jenkins said, "They put tags on him like bigot and called him a two-bit idiot."
He said the Arizona press went after him because they couldn't control him. "They thought, `Our role as unelected governors of the state may come to an abrupt end.' "
Jenkins said Mecham also did not help his cause "because he didn't exactly go to charm school. He always said what he meant, like Harry Truman. If he had to sugarcoat his words, he would get lockjaw."
Lance Mecham said his father's acquittal has several Arizona politicians backtracking because they know they removed him from office because of things that really weren't that severe.
He added that he thinks his father will remain active in politics. "He won't quit. That's the one thing they underestimated.
"Maybe he's more powerful now than when he was in office because of the backlash of all the negative publicity. They've made a hero out of him," he said. "It's nice that his name has now been cleared (n court), but they muddied up his name quite a bit in the process to clear him."
Jenkins said he is planning an update on his book to cover Mecham's impeachment and his court acquittal. He said 10,000 copies of the book have been sold since its release in April.