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. Pete/Ark

    This whole story may be the biggest "OOPS!" for the GOP since Watergate...I hope .

    February 19, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. DENNA

    Wow, it is harder for the GOPer to pretend to be superior to the Democrats when this sort of stuff keeps coming in. And let us not forget that Ricky Boy Santorum is going crazy all alone, Newt still thinks he and plastic Barbie have a chance of darkening the doors of the White House and poor old Mr. Paul is just hanging on for dear life. Thanks, GOP, for the most entertaining season in a long time.

    February 19, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. Sean D

    Where does the concept that republicans are against gay "people" that so many of you posting here are talking about? Yes, there are certain privileges that gay people want to call "rights" that republicans fight against. But that does not come from hate, it comes from logic.
    Or is it simply because the Democratic, left wing, self centered, do whatever you want as long as it benefits me attitude, just fits most gay people better? I mean after all. Being gay is all about pretending your something your not. And who knows how to do that better than a democrat. The best two words to prove what I'm saying is true.... Barney Frank.

    February 19, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  4. Jim in San Mateo

    Just because you're gay doesn't mean you're smart. This guy is toast. He could have John Birch tattooed on his chest and he still won't get elected.

    February 19, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  5. Sherry

    It is hard to make out the real issue here: Hypocrisy or abuse of power.

    February 19, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Txpollo

    Wow, to imagine your whole life comes crashing down at the age of 37! The guy had a whole list of accolades and from reading several articles did not hide his sexuality. I think he burned a bridge with that illegal and probably promised too much and then renigged. That is the problem when you become an adult, especially when you become an adult that is in the public eye and suddenly every eye is upon you. I dont know how I would have handled breaking up with someone, but I am sure I just like anyone else would have made threats that were unrealistic and downright dirty. I think the illegal houseboy took action to make sure that the last 3 years of the relationship were not in vain. sad love story....

    February 19, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. Keith

    Republicans expressed immediate outrage that a gay man was even allowed to become a sheriff. A Republican spokesperson, who refused to be named out of embarassment that people might discover he was a Republican, said, "This abhorrent of God should never have been made sheriff because it is perfectly clear he will demonstrate bias against heterosexuals and cannot be trusted having access to personal information about God fearing straight men."

    February 19, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. Margaret

    His personal life is private, but it seems for Republicans that male personal lives are, but not women. There are gay republicans, they even have a group Log Cabin Republicans. They base it on not the right wing so called Christian values that would see all of them in hell, but on economic, and national interests. Read the comments at the end of articles here in Az and the right wing ultra Christians will be happy to tell you how he is going to hell, and what a disgusting lifestyle he leads. How women who have abortions are all murderers. Any belief other than theirs is wrong. Wouldn't it be nice if we could leave religion out of politics?

    February 19, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. David B.

    Many Republicans I know don't approve of Gays or illegals. IS this guy sure he is in the right party?

    February 19, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  10. ohsnap

    "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."
    In other words, don't let the door hit you on the way out! lol

    February 19, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. ohsnap

    "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."


    February 19, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  12. CarrotCakeMan

    This is what the disease that is Republicanism can do to even a formerly law-abiding LGBT American.

    February 19, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. The Greedy Old Pigs declared class war on US!

    "He has already spent more than Bush did in 8 years including the wars you mentioned."

    Another BIG LIE from the GOBP deathcult. President Obama put Bush's war costs on the books after Bush conveniently refused to include them. Do your homework and don't come back until you've redone your numbers to reflect reality. Deficit spending will also be reduced once t he GOBP deathcult start paying attention to the wishes of three quarters of America who want a millionaire tax.

    February 19, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  14. Just Consider This

    Deviates will do what deviates will do, especially when you have so many wanting to normalize deviant behavour.

    February 19, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  15. George

    I've got news for you Steven, Prez Obama didn't roll back Cheney & Gonzales' elimination of habeas corpus. You might be a fan of Obama, but he's all for imprisoning someone, LGBT or not, indefinitely without access to family or lawyers and without charging them with a crime. I voted for Obama, but habeas corpus is such a huge deal that I'll take my chances with anybody else that might fix that problem in the next election.

    February 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  16. Teams33

    Of course Republicans like gays!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 19, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  17. jdoe

    You can be gay and still be Republican, of course. You just have to keep it hidden real good.

    February 19, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  18. Mayombe

    Gay Republicans.... what an oxymoron!

    February 19, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  19. 21k

    doesn't get any better than this. xtian republican candidate has a gay sheriff in his campaign who's dating an illegal in where else, red-state arizona. snl and colbert should be charged for using this stuff, since they will get so many laughs. it's not even fair.

    February 19, 2012 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  20. tomcat

    Jose, if you're ashamed of being gay...don't blame it other people.

    February 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  21. Norm

    The man has someting most in politics do not.....honesty and integrity. He also has the guts to stand up and suffer any consequences for his actions. This country should be so lucky to have more like him. We have a lack of such people here in Texas as demonstrated by our last legislative session.

    February 19, 2012 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  22. Vence

    It's clear racism is stronger than Gay pride!

    February 19, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  23. Wil in LA

    Being a gay republican is like being a jewish nazi. And we know there were some of those, too.

    February 19, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  24. NanookoftheNorth

    Whew.....for a minute there, I thought this was going to be about Sheriff Joe ! 😉

    February 19, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  25. Pat

    I just don't understand gay republicans. How can someone vote for and support a party that refuses to grant them any civil rights? If it wasn't for Democrats, gay people would still have no rights at all. Talk about self-loathing - how can these people live with themselves. It's no wonder so many of them indulge in addictive behaviors and secretive activities.......until FORCED to become public.

    February 19, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
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