Arizona sheriff resigns Romney role after allegations
February 18th, 2012
04:11 PM ET
11 years ago

Arizona sheriff resigns Romney role after allegations

(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.

Also see:

Gingrich suggests candidacy rests on Georgia

Obama budget proposal under fire in GOP address

Friess apologizes for birth control comment

Six members withdraw from Waters probe

Filed under: 2012 • Arizona • Immigration • Mitt Romney
soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. Docmartin

    Republicans support LEGAL immigration. We want to secure the border FIRSt, then we can talk about how to deal with the illegals already here. Nuff said!

    February 19, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. CG

    My guess is if it were just an anti-immigrant controversy, Fox News and the Republican establishment would be defending him tooth & nail. But since it turns out he's also gay, I'm sure they'll throw him under the bus.

    February 19, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. Steven Bannister

    SOME (not all) liberals are absolutely two-faced. On one had, they scream for "diversity" and "inclusion" – so you would THINK that would be happy that there are gay conservatives like the Sheriff. But noooo – apparently, only Democrats are allowed to be gay!

    Wake up people – believing in limited government and the US Constitution is not only for straights! And- supporting border enforcement is not just a Republican thing, about 70% of Democrats are demanding border enforcement as well!

    February 19, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Keith

    Was this guy out campaigning in uniform?

    If you want to solve the immigration problem, certainly don't vote for Republicans. Republicans have done nothing but obstruct immigration solutions for decades because they don't want it solved. It's "all politics all the time" with the Republicans. They want to keep it around as a "wedge issue". If they actually did something about it, they'd lose their "wedge issue".

    February 19, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. adela

    He dint came out he was exposed

    you don't have a personal life when you are in public service

    I am a democrat =pro gay rights

    but this man can't be trust!

    February 19, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  6. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Don't get your panties in a knot, Babeu doesn't have a problem with gays, he just has a problem with one gay illegal Mexican.

    February 19, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. jimatmadison

    The assumption with a homophobic GOP politician has to be that he's a self-loathing suppressed or closeted gay.

    If you work with that assumption, you'll usually be right, and it explains a lot of their free-floating anger at everybody and everything around them.

    February 19, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. Frank

    "What I do in my personal and private life is my personal and private life with those individuals," he said.

    No, because you're elected to public office. When that happens, everything that anyone can find out about your past, present, future, public, or private life will be used to decide if you get votes in the next election. That's just how it works, and all politicians know it. It's only when the stuff being found is negative that they start whining about how it should be private.

    February 19, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. CNNUser

    He is not exactly a closet case – more like Don't ask Don't Tell. He is single, is dating and has profiles on gay sites. Being in the military and law enforcement makes coming out difficult and we have to respect that. You come out, people say you flaunt. You don't, people say you are in the closet. What do you do?

    I guess his biggest disguise, ironically, was not being married or having a girlfriend – it was hanging out with the conservatives 🙂 Otherwise, use the Seinfeld logic – he is 40ish, thin, good looking, probably neat – a lot of people would have figured it out 🙂

    Arizona is a strange state – there have been quite a few openly Gay Republican politicians here. Babeu seems to have been gay friendly on issues such as DADT. In a way, it is good to have gays work within the system to change the attitude. Of course, that requires one being out to have meaningful discussions. This just occurred yesterday.

    All that said, someone hit it on the nail – how can someone expect to run for political office on the conservative side and keep his sexual orientation hidden when he is actually involved with other guys? That is not too smart.

    On the other hand, you have to give the guy credit for serving all these years in the military and law enforcement and probably pretty good at it. Also, some sympathy for him – it must not be easy to work day in and day out with all these people who you know hate your kind.

    February 19, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. Mortalc01l

    As usual, the overwhelming, sickening hypocrisy of the Republicans shows it's face! A Sheriff who is gay, has an illegal alien boyfriend, has a lover's tiff with him and then threatens to deport him. What's wrong with this picture?

    Between Gingrich (Mr. family values who cheats on every one of his multiple wives) and Santirum who opposes abotrion EXCEPT when it's his wife (then it's ok) to this freaking closet case, the Republicans just seem to be the party of lies and denial. It's do as I SAY, NOT as I DO, wuth the Republican party.

    They seem quite OK with telling EVERYONE else how to live their lives; you MUST do this, you CAN'T do that, The Bible says this, the Bible says that and YOU schmucks MUST do what you are told; but WE can lie, cheat, steal and sin away and there should be no consequences, because WE REPUBLICANS are SPECIAL and the laws of this country don't apply to us.

    How blind do you have to be to vote Republican? How much self-loathing do you have to have, to be a Gay Republican when the Republican party wants to deny you equal rights under the law? And why do there seem to be SOOOOOO many in the clost Republican gays?

    February 19, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    GI Joe.: "His personal life IS his own business."

    Agreed. It only becomes a problem when you persecute others for exactly what you are doing yourself.

    February 19, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    Docmartin: "Republicans support LEGAL immigration. We want to secure the border FIRSt, then we can talk about how to deal with the illegals already here. Nuff said!"

    Your beef is with all the American employers who have been hiring illegal aliens for the last 30 years, putting well-paid American citizens out of work because all the employers care about is the almighty buck.

    If Americans weren't willing to break the law by hiring illegal aliens, we wouldn't have NEARLY the problem with illegal immigration that we do.

    February 19, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Ramon F. Herrera

    Did the Right invent hypocrisy, or was it the other way around?

    February 19, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Dan

    Folks, no where in the story does it say Romney wanted the guy to step down. The Sheriff made the decision. I'd bet Romney doesn't care if the guy is gay. In Arizona we've had an openly gay congressman (can't remember his name) and really nobody cared. Please, posters, don't get into a slam on Republicans or Romney when this was the Sheriff's decision-I'd bet Romney would prefer he stay on as co-chair.

    February 19, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  15. InCal

    Gays in Republican? I don't get it. Any brains at all? Just like Ohhh...... I love you and will do anything for you because you hate me..

    February 19, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. jack johnson

    Shouldn't Babeu be arrested for extortion? He was threatened with deportion if he talked!!

    February 19, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Abolish the Big Business Hold

    Yes, republicans, are hypocrites and ignorant!

    George W. spent over 2 Trillion dollars on wars which in NO WAY benefited the Average American! So when a Democratic President wants to spend a few billion on the "American people", you ignorant 1% think that he is creating massive debt?

    Are you an uncaring, traitorous idiot against the prosperity and dreams of other Americans! Our Democratic President tried to get all people health insurance, but you GOP slimeballs would rather a president spend trillions on WAR than give a few billion towards hope for his own people some of which aren't getting proper medical treatment and the care that they need.

    When did America become run by Big Business that can buy our politicians, worsen our environment and send all of the jobs over seas? And how can so many American people (ie. traitors to our nation) be ok with that? How can you be happy with Big Business ordering our government to Tear Gas the "Occupy Movement" which just wanted equality. History is repeating itself, its Taxation without Representation!

    I would think that any law abiding, tax paying American would rather our government spend 2 Trillion plus on the American people what George W did on the wars overseas.

    And, if you don't think so...then not only do you have contempt for other Americans but YOU are NOT a True American, you are someone born or living within these borders who only care for yourself and raising your self worth, while others less fortunate suffer.

    February 19, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. America

    Why is it wrong to spend Billions on the American people, but right to spend trillions on Wars?

    February 19, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  19. Steven

    This is what gays can expect if they side with the devil. The good sheriff better come to his senses and support the only candidate supporting GLBT rights. Prez Obama!

    February 19, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  20. krippendorf

    Wow, what a shocker: another right-wing nutjob from the GOP turning out to be 100% hypocrite. His boyfriend is better off without him.

    February 19, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  21. Dean

    To Abolish the Big Business.......................Obama has spent a little more than a few billion.........He has already spent more than Bush did in 8 years including the wars you mentioned.

    February 19, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  22. independent

    I will never, for the life of me, understand how someone who is gay/lesbian can also be a Republican. It seems like a betrayal of self. One has to have such a negative image of self to join a political party that condemns their very being. The reason they are not democrats can possibly be explained by Groucho Marx, " I would never join a club that would accept someone like me as a member.'

    February 19, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  23. Jane

    I love how, when it's a Republican involved, it's all 'it's my personal business'. But when it's a Democrat involved (or All Women) it's all "how horrible, how dare they". They are the poster child for hypocricy.

    February 19, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Gemini Girl

    To ourjungle: I have to agree – a little wordy – but have to agree!
    To alleygator: You ask what is it with Arizona? I think it's too much sun on the brain! Look at crazy Janet Brewer, who had the gall to point her finger in the Presiden't face! And John McLame! John, we haven't forgiven you for unleashing that Wasilla silliness on the rest of us....

    February 19, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  25. Really?

    Liberals don't have to spin this, it is self spinning! But it makes me wonder if Mitt would "flip" for the oh so appropriately named Babeu! Hmmm, a Beach Boy song comes to mind:
    Well, Romney you caught my eye
    And I can give you lotsa reasons why
    You gotta help me Romney
    Help me get him out of my head!

    Help me Romney,
    Help, help me Romney....

    February 19, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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