Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has earned a reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff” by housing Arizona prisoners in tents and cutting meat out of their diets, but in a Bakersfield Business conference speech he said he's got a huge soft spot for Donald J. Trump.

The Republican presidential nominee has faced calls to step aside since the release Friday afternoon of a 2005 tape showing him making derogatory comments about women.

But Arpaio praised Trump for meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Aug. 31 — and for calling his wife to chat several times.

"Got to give him a lot of credit. I’ve been trying to meet the president of Mexico for two years," said Arpaio, who didn't directly address Friday's controversy.

"I want people to know he took time six times to call my wife and he doesn’t even know what my wife looks like. I said that from the beginning, at least I know he’s got a heart somewhere," he said.

When that last remark got a few chuckles, the man who'd vowed minutes earlier to "never surrender" added: "Why is everybody laughing? Oops, maybe I said the wrong thing. It’ll be in the headlines tomorrow."

His half-hour remarks, which started with a standing ovation, ended with several questions from the audience and appeared to leave those who heard him as besotted as when he began to speak.

"I support him 200 percent. We need more of him," said Los Angeles real estate investor David Tomblin afterward.

The 24-year Arizona sheriff, who is 84, dinged the Obama administration — though he avoided the birther issue — for putting law enforcement officers in jail "instead of bad guys" and questioned what Hillary Clinton had done as secretary of state to fight the war on drugs.

"We’ve got drugs flooding our country. Heroin is killing our people. Do you ever hear anything about it? Do you ever hear any politician talking about it?" Arpaio said.

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