Video: Lott aims at critics, scores laughs

Ridiculed for Phelps investigation, official hits back in teasing speech

jmonk@thestate.comFebruary 24, 2009 

Critics have accused Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott of trying to grab his 15 minutes of fame while investigating U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

So Monday, Lott took a few of those minutes — to ridicule the comedians, dopers and pundits who lampooned his probe of the gold medalist, shown in a newspaper photo with a marijuana bong at a Columbia party.

Donning a messy blond wig — a nod to Newsweek’s error in describing him as having blond hair — a bulletproof vest and three bronze medals, Lott set the record straight at a Columbia Rotary meeting, to standing ovations.

“If I wanted 15 minutes of fame, I could have gotten about 35 hours,” joked Lott, noting he turned down national airtime with Jay Leno, Geraldo Rivera, Diane Sawyer and Larry King.

Despite talk of marijuana being harmless, he said, it can lead to other drugs and wasted lives. His best school friend began smoking it, became a trafficker and is dead, he said.

“Don’t give that b.s., ‘it doesn’t hurt anybody,’ ’cause it does.”

American hunger for marijuana is financing a brutal drug war in Mexico, he added. “People in Mexico are dying every day because of us,” he said, speaking of young people who smoke marijuana.

“How could I just ignore this? ... What kind of a message is that going to send to kids?”

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