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.
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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?”