(PHOENIX) — A sheriff who gained notoriety as an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration stepped down from his post as the Romney campaign’s Arizona co-chair after allegations surfaced that he threatened his ex-boyfriend with deportation.
Paul Babeu, 43, who serves as sheriff in Pinal County in Southern Arizona, rose to prominence when the then-first term sheriff appeared in campaign advertisements with John McCain in 2008. The pair walked along a border fence, which McCain had vowed to complete. Babeu tells him: “Senator, you’re one of us.”
At a press conference on Saturday, Babeu responded to allegations levied against him by his former boyfriend that were first published in the Phoenix New Times. The man, who is undocumented, was only identified as Jose. He alleged Babeu threatened him with deportation after he wouldn’t agree to never disclose their relationship.
“It’s blatantly, completely false,” Babeu said. “I never believed he was less legal than I or you are.”
But texts obtained by the newspaper that were traced back to Babeu’s phone number told a different story.
“You can never have business after this and you will harm me and many others in the process . . . including yourself and your family,” Babeu allegedly wrote on Sept. 4, 2011.
Besides serving as sheriff, Babeu is currently pursuing a congressional bid.
Sen. John McCain said on Sunday that his “friend” and political supporter, Babeu should be given the the benefit of innocence until proven guilty.
“Well of course Sheriff Babeu is a friend of mine. I do not know the details except what has been published in the media and I am sure there will be a through and complete investigation if there is any allegations of wrongdoing,” said McCain, R-Ariz., “All I can say is that he also deserves the benefit, as every citizen does, of innocence until proven guilty.”
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