(CNN) - An Arizona sheriff building a national profile stepped down Saturday from a state leadership position with Mitt Romney's presidential campaign after a newspaper published allegations that he threatened to deport a former boyfriend.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu denied the allegations during a press conference Saturday. He was co-chair of Romney's campaign in Arizona and is a candidate for Congress in the state's fourth district.
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"I'm here to say that all of these accusations that are in one of these newspapers are absolutely false," Babeu said outside his office, "except to the issues that refer to me as being gay."
Babeu's former boyfriend alleged in a Phoenix New Times report published Thursday that Babeu and his attorney threatened him with deportation if the man revealed their relationship. Babeu said Saturday he had no reason to believe that the man, identified in the news report only as Jose, was an illegal immigrant. The New Times reported the man is originally from central Mexico.
The sheriff said Saturday that the man was also a volunteer on his congressional campaign, and when their relationship failed, Babeu alleged the man took control of campaign social media and committed identity theft. Babeu said at the press conference that his attorney contacted the man, who contacted his own lawyer after feeling threatened by contact from Babeu and his attorney.
Jose is living "in fear," his lawyer told CNN in a statement.
"Jose retained our law firm after he was contacted by Sheriff Babeu's attorney, because he felt intimidated and needed someone to help protect his rights," Melissa Weiss-Riner said on Saturday. "As a campaign volunteer, our client created and maintained several websites and accounts at Sheriff Paul Babeu's request. The websites and accounts were created and maintained for Sheriff Babeu from approximately 2008 through late 2011.
"Jose continues to live in fear, and is currently in the process of moving again. Therefore, he is not available to speak with the media at this time," she continued.
However, Chris DeRose, the lawyer and campaign manger for Babeu, told CNN he never threatened Jose or indicated in any way that he could be deported if the relationship with the sheriff were made public.
"I've never spoken to the guy on the phone or met him in person," DeRose said. "I never threatened his legal status or anything else.”
DeRose said he sent an email to Jose last May, asking him to turn over all usernames and passwords to the campaign website. The only other time he communicated with Jose, DeRose said, came when he sent a cease and desist order after the campaign’s Twitter account was hacked in September. Joe responded with the following statement, agreeing to the terms.
"The guy was already accused of breaking several federal laws," DeRose said. "Why would I need to threaten his legal status?"
Jose’s lawyer would only say the Mexican national currently resides in the U.S. legally but declined to address whether he has always had legal status here.
At the press conference on Saturday, Babeu vowed to continue his campaign for U.S. Congress and serve out his "four-year term as sheriff with a bang." He was elected in 2008.
He was joined at the press conference by colleagues and associates who defended his character and underscored his assertion that the matter was a personal one.
"What I do in my personal and private life is my personal and private life with those individuals," he said.
Babeu has appeared alongside Romney on the campaign trail, and alongside Arizona Sen. John McCain in a pro-immigration television advertisement which McCain aired during his tough primary campaign in 2010. Babeu also spoke earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul also issued a statement to CNN on Saturday.
"Sheriff Babeu has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him," Saul said. "We support his decision."
On Sunday, McCain described Babeu as a friend, adding he didn't know any more details than what has been reported in the media.
"All I can say is that he also deserves the benefit, as every citizen does, of innocence until proven guilty," McCain said on ABC's "This Week." "But I appreciate the support that he gave me in my campaign and always will."
The sheriff said he called the Romney campaign to offer his resignation, and said he was not asked nor pressured to resign.
Babeu will appear Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."
– CNN's Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.
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Another GOBP wingnut out of the closet. Rick Perry will be next.
Maybe he should join the Santorum campaign now.
Jose isn't Sheriff Joe Arpio, is he?
This is the dilema for gay people who want to be Republican. They aren't wanted.
Maybe he should seek out Michelle Bachman for her cure by prayer for gay people. :-)
Oh good lord. This is worth a steamy novel. (Yet another) Republican closet case. This one in a "relationship" with – if he's threatening to deport him – an illegal who's handling his right-wing social media. How much more dysfunctional can it get?
I thought Santorum's and Romney's respective theocracies were bad enough, but this takes the cake...for now. Stay tuned.
Oh the hypocrisy!
Never before have I seen an asteroid wear a shirt.
Jose the plumber – the new symbol of the Republican party.
Arizona, do not believe these drug thugs....just vote direct Democratic Ticket.
Pretty soon the gay boyfriend will hire Gloria Allred and have a press conference.
The public sector unions are at it again.
It boggles my mind how a gay man can be so involved in a party that wants to outlaw his life.
T thought reublicans didn't like the gays ?
Arthur, How does it feel to be out of your cave? You seem soooo open minded and intelligent. See you when you cash your government check.
Personal and private? Except when it has to do with a women's
body and choices...hypocrites all of the repukes!!!!
Sorry Mitt too much rain can be damaging too!
This story is an excellent example of the far right wing of a political party that erects facades aimed at confusing the electorate by hiding the actual game plan of a party driven by hate rather than understanding and acceptance. How could anyone support a political movement that is based on deception?
There goes Romney's down-low.
My partner and I live in Maricopa county. Pinal county is just to the south. I was quite frankly shocked when I read the newspaper. Never thought Babeu was gay.
My main issue is that he shouldn't have posted those pictures with his "stats". Those websites are a bit tasteless and he should have known better.
That being said, I would hope that him being a tough guy and being gay may cause some conservative Republicans to re-think their views on homosexuals.
My partner is liberal, but I am conservative on a lot of issues. I recently changed my registration to Republican because I think too many extreme right-wingers win the primaries here in Arizona then go on to win the general election because voters don't educate themselves. Voters just pick the candidate with the "R" next to the name.
Since I vote in every election including primaries, I hope maybe my one little vote can help get moderate GOP politicians into the general elections. Work for change from within.
It is my hope that Babeu could bring change. Arizona has elected openly gay GOP politicians (ex. Jim Kolbe). In the West there is a live and let live attitude. However those advertisements for sex is what will do him in.
"I was just doin' the job that Americanos would do!"
...and standing side by side with ROMNEY who openly preached against gays? Did he reveal to Romney that he is gay and get fired for being gay? Romney likes 'firing' people, so it's not surprising to see him hastily getting rid of Mr. gay sheriff after the revelation of his sexual orientation. And, NO, NO, NO, he didn't resigned he was fired.
GAY...REALLY? and working for Romney under cover? Romney didn't spare a moment in firing him, he is just too gay.
mitt tied to a gay buttock lol.. all gays should goto the moon with gingrich..that's a good idea!
Not sure we have all the facts but do have many opinions. I do want to say: I have a friend who has a gay child. The child lives with the love of her life. Mom still does not believe that her OWN child has any right to marry. That is what is wrong with Republicans.
The bigger issue to me is how a gay person can be a Republican when the Republican Party policies are totally opposed to anything gay. I know some Republicans that admit that they would like to roundup all the gays in America and ship them to a deserted island. I am sure that sentiment is shared by many Republicans in their private conversations. So again I ask how a gay person can be a Republican without being a total hypocrite. This is what happens when you support a Party without analysing that Party’s policies. You become brainwashed. I am a firm believer that no one should identify themselves as a Registered Republican or Democrat. That way you are less likely to be brainwashed and more likely to look to Party Policies from a more rational point of view. You will be less likely to vote for a party that support most things that you are opposed too or against your moral character.
So again I ask, how can a gay person be a Republican?
Typical hypocritical gay republicans promoting immigration reform while hiring illegal immigrants to work on their campaigns... not to mention having s.e.x. with them.