Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Sykes’ War Against Sheriff Clarke

Their bromance has gone bitter, the love has turned to hate. Why?

By - Mar 28th, 2017 11:06 am
Charlie Sykes and David Clarke.

Charlie Sykes and David Clarke.

Nowadays, if you looking for someone to dump on Sheriff David Clarke, you can’t do better than Charlie Sykes.

“He’s virtually invisible here in Milwaukee,” Sykes carped to the Chicago Tribune in a recent story on the sheriff’s rising national profile.

Sykes also ripped Clarke in a Business Insider story, saying: “There are a lot of jobs you don’t have to show up for, but [sheriff] is one where you do….And when he gets involved, it often has an almost gratuitous, grandstanding sense to it.”

On Twitter Sykes uses the hashtag #FakeCop to label Clarke, and has bashed the sheriff for running a county jail where “Milwaukee jail inmates forced to give birth in shackles” and savaged him for mocking the mayor, as follows: “Clarke can no longer distinguish between tough talk and being a crude, juvenile bully.”

Yes, this is the same Charles J. Sykes, who was for more than a decade one of Clarke’s biggest promoters. The sheriff routinely ignored the rest of the media and shared all of his charges and counter-charges, hyperbole and hyper-ventilating with Sykes, who gave the sheriff celebratory coverage on his weekday radio talk show.

So what happened to end this blissful bromance of blowhards? Sykes has been trumpeting his opposition to Donald Trump since last winter and once the Sheriff decided to back Trump in May Sykes began chiding Clarke as a “Trumpkin.” Then it came out that Clarke’s book, Cop Under Fire, included nothing about Sykes — not one word of gratitude or respect — and the enmity grew.

Right after Trump’s victory in November, Clarke sent Sykes an email saying (among other things): “You embarrassed yourself over the last 6 months. Your hubris and your ego got the best of you…I will enjoy listening to your program again for the next 2 months explaining how Trump could NEVER become POTUS.”

To which Sykes responded, “Does this mean you will actually show up and do your job now?”

Since then, Clarke hasn’t had much to say, but Sykes keeps pouring on the scorn and derision for his one-time ally. Sykes’ Right Wisconsin website has relentlessly attacked the sheriff, declaring Clarke was the “loser of the day” on January 18, on January 23, on February 1 and March 19,  and for good measure, Clarke’s political advisor Craig Peterson was chosen loser of the day on March 14.

“I was kind of honored,” Peterson jokes. “I have to thank him for making me relevant again.”

The nice thing about having your own publication is you can run un-bylined stories that fawningly feature the editor’s bon mots in another publication. Thus Sykes’s publication told us that Sykes said this about Clarke in Business Insider: “And all you do is speak out on [crime], that’s been the wrap on him. Big hat, no cattle. Talks a big game but he doesn’t actually do a lot of stuff.”

Which is to say that Sykes has recanted his old views of Clarke. Recantations, as I’ve written, are a particular specialty of Sykes. After 24 years of relentlessly bashing the “biased” press on his talk show, he’s suddenly realized that this might have soured people’s trust in the mainstream media. After subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) appealing to racism among some of his listeners, he’s admitted that wasn’t right either.

In the case of Clarke, Sykes now criticizes the Sheriff for neglecting his job while taking speaking engagements nationally, but Clarke was doing that in 2015 and actually took master classes from a California college in 2013

And Sykes has suddenly realized that Clarke traffics in childish bluster and ugliness, though he promoted this kind of rhetoric by the sheriff for years.

And that’s not just my interpretation. Sykes himself takes credit for creation of the monster Clarke became, saying he “regrets the boost” he gave Clarke, and calling him his “Frankenstein monster,” as the National Review reported. There may not be enough publications in America to handle all of Sykes’ recantations.

Curiously, the one place where Sykes hasn’t recanted is at his website, which is still called Right Wisconsin, even as Sykes has won national notoriety for attacking talk radio, Trump and other Republicans on MSNBC and in New York Times op eds.

Shouldn’t the website’s name be changed to, maybe, “Sometimes Right” or “Just to the Right of MSNBC”?

I sent Sykes some questions about the website and he responded per usual, “just make it up as you usually do.”

To which I responded, “hey, I thought you’d changed your views. How about a different response for me?”

To which he responded: “Not about you.”

Okay, so Sykes won’t be recanting his view of me.

The structure of Right Wisconsin was always something of a mystery. It was owned by Scripps Publishing, the Cincinnati-based company that owned WTMJ radio, but Sykes would call conservative groups and lobbyists in the state asking them to become sponsors and help underwrite the website, which gave it more of a not-for-profit feel, along with a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” ethos.

Those sponsors included right-wing groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth and business groups like Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. At some point last year the site was no longer a subscriber-only site and became free to all readers, and the sponsorships withered away.

So now that Sykes has left WTMJ and no longer works for Scripps, who owns Right Wisconsin? Its stories still say “Copyright 2016 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved,” though this is now 2017 and an entirely different ideological era for Charlie.

Sure enough, Valerie Miller, spokesperson for Scripps, tells me “Ownership of Right Wisconsin was transferred to Charlie Sykes when he retired at the end of 2016.”

As for the site’s staff, it lists only Sykes as editor and James Wigderson as assistant editor. Wigderson, who has been an education reporter for the right-wing since April 2016, just took on the added position of assistant editor for Sykes in January, so he may not be getting paid much for that gig. (Wigderson declined to discuss this.)

Perhaps Sykes is now paying for the site, with all that money he earned over the years running a radio show he now regrets. Which means you can probably expect lots more stories dumping on David Clarke.

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36 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Sykes’ War Against Sheriff Clarke”

  1. WashCoRepub says:

    At least his radio show was entertaining… TMJ’s current lineup could be used as therapy to treat insomniacs.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    This isn’t surprising as Sykes is running with his new role as a conservative bashing Trump. However, it’s also possible that Clarke is crossing a line for even conservatives (better late than never). Even Christian Schneider went after Clarke the other day. After what he said about Barrett and the State Fair attack, I don’t know how anyone with half-a-brain could continue defending Clarke.

  3. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Christian Schneider and Sykes are both weenies. They look out for themselves, all the time. Sykes got canned cause mostly he was playing poiltical games with peoel instead of getting audience.
    New owners wanted a more middle of roads program.
    Charlie saw an opportunity, at MSNBC, for a converted Conservative, in the spring of election year. then who better to go after than Trump and Clarke, people who’s jock strap Charlei could not even carry.
    Both have never held ar real job but yakkers.

  4. Franklyn Gimbel says:

    Clarke is the “Great Imposter Democrat” playing the KKK card for his own recognition as a leader of “racism is Ok” card played to become POTUS by Donald Trump- wow what a world we live in. My African American friends – say good bye to this LOSER- fmg

  5. Federalist says:

    Both Sykes and Clarke have MASSIVE egos, but then again so does Trump. Tell me again, why are we bothering to discuss this war of the publicity hookers?

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    So WCD Clarke wasn’t out of line at all for his comments about Barrett? Have you no sense of decency?

  7. tim haering says:

    Bruce, I’d like to quote Kurt VOnnegut, but I can only paraphrase. I usually like your column, but this is media disappearing up its own asshole, spletnik.

  8. Virginia says:

    Both Sykes and Clarke are opportunistic fame whores. Both are loyal only to craven ambition.

    Tonight on MSNBC Never-Trump Charlie gave a sloppy kiss to Trump’s executive order repealing environmental protections and boosing owners of coal plants (despite acknowledging it will not bring back jobs).

    Charlie could not resist his customary bashing of alternative energy. How long before those duped MSNBC folks feel buyers’ remorse?

  9. Ingrid Buxton says:

    Sykes is an opportunist. How many times has he flip flopped in his career?

  10. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    And Gimbel is one of the powers” that have wrecked Milwaukee.
    Look at the mess Gimble made of the Wisconsin center, the Milwaukee theater. Why would you take him seriously. Milwaukee has the problems: Heroin epidemic, Murder epidemic, car jacking, ca r theft, youth unemployment, worst poverty, ten worst run cities in country, bad roads, Milwaukee cost govt a joke in state, corruption,high taxes, human trafficking, abandoned houses and a male, white racist liberal group that refuses even to change things.
    Schools are “National Disgrace” per Arne Duncan and none has answers. The few things that might change things are immediately tossed out.
    At least Clarke cares and is highlighting these things. to Gimble and others that is heresy to criticize the poor little dears.
    80% if the peoel in last election like Clarke, but the Liberal establishment that has mismanaged Milwaukee to a fault hates him. Bice, Gimble, Barrett and Murphy and other’s cannot stand someone who makes them look like little weenies.

  11. Vincent Hanna says:

    Right now Clarke’s approval rating is 31% WCD. Where are you getting 80%? Did you just make it up?

    Is it wrong to mock someone who tried to stop a woman and child from getting violently attacked? If a liberal mocked a conservative for getting beat up after they tried to save a woman and child, would you consider that wrong? Have you any decency? Or is right and wrong for you entirely partisan? Anything Clarke says is fine because you like his politics?

  12. Edward Susterich says:

    Wisconsin Conservative Digest–
    Wisconsin Conservative Digest must have a trained monkey to write their responses. Pretty good for a trained monkey, but he/she needs to work on getting “peoel” right. After mastering that, work on coherent and intelligent commentary.

  13. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I do love bananas, but the facts are the facts. Bruce Murphy and Bice are so intimidated by Clarke cause he really is mostly words that nails the racists that run Milwaukee.

    They hate some Uppity N_____ , that just does not know his place.
    Barrett was heroic, but awfully stupid in the way he handled himself.
    He obviously has never taken any course, or activities about self defense. He should do that or carry a gun.
    Clarke and Frankovis are big danger to the reigning people in Milwaukee, cause he goes after them for their obvious failures.
    Everyone else covers for them as long as they get theirs, like MMAC. Milwaukee has good downtown, East side, parts of south side, but the core is rotten.
    They cannot teach the kids, so we lose them. These two weenies: Bice and Murphy worry about words, instead of deeds.
    Clarke guards the freeway, parks, county buildings, hardly anything that is threatening except for his knowledge and words. He was top cop, and with Frankovis expose the worthless Chief: Flynn.
    Under these leaky leaders nothing will change,
    Outstate thinks that Milwaukee is pit, so will not vote them any money.
    They let really net thing like the domes fall apart while the 6th place Bucks get a billion dollar playground and a 200 million trolley..
    Those on this site are nothing but apologists for this crap. The Journal is completely failing look at the paper, the size, the articles.
    Peoepl like Abele, Bice, Murphy and the weird Lefties that have wrecked Milwaukee are so inimtades by someone like Clarke tha they go hide undertake bed and the write theseesily articles.
    Thsioe survey are so much BS. Same one had Hilalry ahed by 12 points. If Calrek was so bad how did he gt 80% last election? Why did Trump win as calrek ran around the state campaigning for him. if Hillary has peoel vesdie those little nuts backing her she might have owns.
    We woud love to se these clowns send up to Clarke in person, they would run whining, crying, so scared they would not know which end to poop out of, but that’s life. Some people live it, lead and others write about it.
    Other like Hanna worry about spelling and grammar in a world of tweeting, texting. Line all the up around here and know they never accomplished anything or did anything.

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    You really show your age in that post WCD. You are just an old, racist kook. Your loved ones should really not allow you to use a computer.

    What’s hilarious is you thinking Clarke is tough merely because he threatens people on the Internet or to the media. He’s never in the county so he isn’t actually doing anything but talking. Yet old racists like you believe he’s tough cause he wears a cowboy hat and calls people names on Facebook.

  15. Bill Kissinger says:

    As they say, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. In Sykes case one could eat a great mind is a tragic thing to waste.

  16. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Jus think how many hundreds of thousands of kids have been wasted by the failure of the white, male, liberal, racists and apologists for them, on this site, have cost this state.
    When kids in 3rd grade cannot read, we lose them. Arne Duncan came in and called MPS an “national disgrace” and nothing happened.
    the weird old farts around here are apologists for that. if they can tech them in Bangladesh they should be able to teach them in Milwaukee or get out.
    That is why we have cried, all these kids are ignored by peoel on this site while they worry about Clarke’s exposing them. They are known as racist weenies.

  17. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    If Clarke looked hard at some of you clowns you would pee your pants.

  18. reader says:

    Clarke can’t manage a budget. Takes so much and does so little. We need a sheriff who can get more bang for the buck.
    Sykes is a phony intellectual. He backed out of his tour of French wine country when France did not support the Iraq war.

  19. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    It is interesting to note that they begged him take over the House of Corrections.He fixed it, up right away, installed discipline, but the weenie Abele took it away in a fit of pique after he lost $ 250,000 on Clarkes election. Dept of Corrections just gave the jail the top rating in state as the best.

  20. Vincent Hanna says:

    How many people have died at the Milwaukee COUNTY Jail under Clarke’s watch WCD? Four?

  21. Tim says:

    Kinda weird they gave Clarke an award for having 4 deaths in his lockups last year. Or maybe WCD isn’t telling the truth. 😮

  22. Sam says:

    When is everyone going to realize that engaging WCD is the wrong move?

  23. chuck says:

    Bruce, is Charlie even living in Wisconsin, he is on msnbc so much, and he is doing that evening talk show
    out of new York. please lets us know, and is he still marry to his third wife.

  24. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Deaths happen in prison all cross the country all the time. Not one person in the Milwaukee county jail has been cited fro any negligence. Most people on this site have little knowledge, experience or sense, all hey do is babble the talking points. They are either white, male, liberal, racists or their apologists. Bruce Murphy, head Apologist.

  25. John Casper says:

    Bruce, many thanks.

  26. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    A Good example of why the Left hates Clarke, it is almost funny sometimes, is the front page story today in Journal: Falling through the cracks.?
    The three thugs that killed Zyszkiewicx. the were all long time thugs that had been let loose by the system numerous times, but the Barrett/Chisholm/Flynn/Kemers “Catch and Release” program. Every killing around here is n that category. Thugs that should be in jail.

  27. John Casper says:


    In your time behind bars, how many prisoners have you seen die?

  28. Daddy2Girls says:

    WCD’s response to the Milwaukee County Jail deaths: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  29. Tim says:

    A sheriff that knows what they’re doing, would only have deaths in the case of old age. Try again WCD.

  30. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    So, exactly which deaths was the jail personnel been responsible for in any investigation? Why did they die and who was responsible? Why did the Dept. of Corrections give the Milwaukee County Jail and the House of Corrections get the highs marks, when run by Clarke.?

  31. Daddy2Girls says:

    @WCD Part of the problem is that there hasn’t been any legitimate investigation. We’re just supposed to take Clarke’s word, like a used car salesman saying that the car was only driven by a little old lady to church on Sundays. He’s proven he cannot be trusted.

  32. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Clarke is the only one that can be trusted . Is Clarke the one responsible for the skyrocketing crime, the heroin epidemic, the human trafficking, the corruption, the high taxes, abandoned houses? Fact that the kids cannot read at MPS? No, it is the white, male, liberal, racists that control Milwaukee, that are on this site, that hate Clarke like you clowns ,cause he refuses to be a “House N—–” that you expect him to be.
    Th Left is destroying Milwaukee, Chicago and other big cites cause they cannot educate the kids, control crime, corruption, etc.
    If there was any malfeasance in the jail, I know that two died of natural causes, the DA can order an inquest at any time.

  33. Daddy2Girls says:

    Wow WCD, that’s just…unhinged. I think I’ve fed this troll enough for today. Have a nice weekend! And don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Should you end up in the County Jail, you’ll thank me for that advice.

  34. John Casper says:

    @WCD at 8:55 am

    All of them.

    “Custody,” means “protective care or guardianship.”

  35. Tim says:

    We’d have all the facts already if there were external investigations to make ALL the details public information.

  36. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    You need to call Chisholm and demand an inquest. Call Dept of Corrections and demand an explanation of how the jail got top marks in country?

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