(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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Am I reading this right; is Babeu gay? Nothing bad about gay people; they are fine citizens. There is something wrong with Babeu. He, along with our Sheriff Larry Dever, are the most divisive in our state. They are silent until McCain starts his anti immigrant rant to save his job and here are the Babeu, Dever, and Arpaio, railing against the federal government.
I hope that Babeu's career is ruined because of his gay lifestyle. Not because of him being gay but because of him being a terrible human being. Disgusting "human being".
OMG a gay republican. He will now find out how quick the republican party will run from him. Remember gays not allowed.
Typical Republican...publicly attack gay people and undocumented aliens and as soon as the door closes, they perform man on man sex with Mexican nationals. You have to be crazy to vote Republican.
Conservatives, wake up! We all want someone who can step into the roll of president and bring real leadership and real change to the country. That person is NOT Rick Santorum! He has about as much leadership experience as Barack Obama had before he was elected. Let’s face it, the Obama administration would love to run against Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Nominating either of them would put the same old faces back in Washington. We don’t want that! We want real change and real leadership. That will come from Mitt Romney. He’s proven it repeatedly.
A closeted gay Republican? Not a surprise...there have been dozens of them who have run for Congress. But, really....this is one of the most tragic cases of self-loathing I think I have ever witnessed.
Any closeted gay man in 2012 who thinks he can run for elective office and stay closeted should be disqualified from holding ANY public position if only for excessive stupidity.
Dayum...reading this gave me a Romney....
What a surprise, another self-loathing gay conservative.
Honestly, you can't make this stuff up. These Tea Party folks are beyond nutbar.
GOP, the party of family values...Family values my tush!!
Romney........WHERE THE HELL IS THE MESSAGE!!?? The curtains are about to close on your campaign,and you still haven't given the Nation any Bold message to follow. Our Nation is in real trouble,and millions of folks are hurting, and your message is "I,m from Michigan".....that is totally stupid!! You announced your opposition to the past (stress past) auto industry bail outs....nothing in your oppositon would fix what is ailing our Nation now (stress now)!! But, you did manage to upset (or worse) 1/3 of Michigan. Romney, you seem way off point,and I can only assume it is your Strategist (get a new one). For example, Obama rolled out his Budget for the Nation,that will take our Nation into more massive debt.....this was a chance for you to Roar, a chance for you to pound the podium. But, instead you issued a few blurps from a note card, which amounted to a squeak,when the Nation need a Roar.Birth control issues, abortion issues,religious issues,or women in combat issues will not fix what ails our Nation's economy now (stress now)! Romney, get back on point! I say again....WHERE THE HELL IS THE MESSAGE!!??
A member of law enforcement should not be a part of any political campaign. He should never have been a part of any campaign because there would be the chance of any favortism.
What is it with Arizona? They seem to be wackier there than any other state! Did all the nutcakes from South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Utah, Georgia and Texas move there?
Oh my gosh, a Romney supporter GOP running for a congressional seat is GAY! Now, how will they, or Romney in particular, purge the house? These punks are ALL hypocrites! They believe and do something and say something else. That's why I like the Democrats. Except for marginal few, the majority of the Democrats at least maintain consistency between what they say, believe and what they do. ObamaBiden 2012!
Morons vote for morons.
mitt will flip, again..
Wow , a GOP log cabin gay Arizona sheriff .
Corruption and the Mormon Mafia. When you let the Coyotes run the hen house , you have well fed coyotes.
Gay republicans are a case study in ignorance. How can you be in a party that wants to change you, ignore you, or even worse...deny you any rights? Drives me nuts. He needs to come over to the democratic party where his rights are respected and fought for.
There is no "spin" here. The story is pretty straight forward. Any spin will come from sorry ass liberals with nothing better to do. Wait and see.
absolutely priceless!! This guy has been slingin' mud against the wall for going on 4-5 years now trying to dig at Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular, regarding immigration law or anything else that suits his fancy...did I say 'fancy'?!!
Republicans only want to keep it personal and private if it is one of their own. If this was a democrat gay sherriff , Fox would be hounding him and Santorum and Romney would be pointing out the decline of morals in democratic candidates.
SHAME ON YOU SANTORUM! How dare you judge in the name of Christianity.
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."
Looks like he did end his career with a bang.
Is there anyone in the Democrat party (especially in its media arm, i.e., the entire Washington/New York/American press corps) who is not a hardline, virulent, militant, leftist, America-hating, amnesty-for-illegals, hardline hardliner?
Now he will be free to work for Brewer.