Damage Control: Sheriff Acknowledges He's Gay
BY Lucas Grindley
February 21 2012 1:18 PM ET
Sheriff Paul Babeu, a Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona, admitted he's gay on Saturday but not that he ever threatened to deport his ex-boyfriend back to Mexico as part of an effort to keep his sexual orientation quiet.
"I am here to say that all of these allegations that were in one of these newspapers are absolutely, completely false," he said during a news conference, "except for the issues that refer to me as being gay. Because that's the truth, I am gay."
Earlier in the day, a Mitt Romney spokesman reported that Babeu resigned his post as a co-chairman of the Arizona campaign to focus on dealing with the allegations. Babeu confirmed during the news conference that he had a relationship with Jose, who admits being in the country illegally, but Babeu said he "never believed he was less legal than I or you were."
Babeu is nationally known for his strong stance on border security, appearing prominently alongside Sen. John McCain in a campaign ad on the subject, and he even spoke forcefully about the issue at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
After they broke up, Babeu said he got a lawyer because Jose was holding hostage passwords to his social media accounts and other parts of his official online identity — which the Phoenix New Times reported as part of its story about the supposed deportation threat. Bebau also did not dispute the newspaper's discovery of a photo of him in his underwear on a gay dating site. Jose told the newspaper it was that profile that led to his realization the sheriff was cheating on him.
But Bebau, who is not married, said the newspaper was prying into his "personal and private life" and that the deportation accusation was just being used by the newspaper as a way to expose a conservative sheriff for being gay.
"This is 20-plus years that I've had numerous people that would threaten this to me, to expose me, to go to my chain of command even in the military and report this and have done so," he said. "This whole rumor, this whole idea about who I am in my private life has been shopped around, and I believe an overwhelming majority of the you standing here today in the media not only have known this, that information has been brought to your attention by numerous sources."
Unresolved is whether Babeu's lawyer ever asked Jose to sign an agreement to never talk about Babeu's sexual orientation, which is among the accusations in the New Times piece. When Babeu first won his spot as sheriff of Pinal County, he made his strong feelings about lying clear during a profile on him by a local Fox news station.
"I was a victim of sexual assault when I was a young boy and actually by a priest back in Massachusetts, and that was something that had a dramatic impact on my life," he told the Fox station, which was doing a profile on him. "Having leaders within the church cover it up and lie about it really awakened my sense of truly the world and what's right and what's wrong and how some people are in positions of great trust and honor sometimes can do bad things."
Babeu is the tenth of 11 children. And he said the abuse began when he was 11 and lasted for several years. And that taught him how to decide whether someone is lying.
"With my past and understanding of how people in positions of trust can lie," he told Fox, "I look at just not what somebody is telling you but the consistency in different environments."