The Phoenix New Times published an article dated Feb. 16 detailing a relationship gone sour between conservative Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (R), who is running for Congress in Arizona's 4th District and has made a name for himself as what the article calls an immigration hawk, and an immigrant from Mexico, who the article claims Babeu threatened with deportation because the man threatened to reveal the soured relationship.
[UPDATE @ 2:50P: At a news conference held today to address the allegations, Babeu denied the allegegation about the threat -- and came out.
He said, "All these allegations ... are absolutely completely false ... except for the issues that refer to me as being gay, because I am gay."
Later in the news conference, he said, "At no time did I or anyone who represents me threaten deportation."
He says that he, on the other hand, has faced threats of being outed back for 20 years, including while in the military. "It's almost as if there is a relief today ... to not be threatened," he said.
Babeu's chief deputy sheriff calls the matter of him being gay "not very important," and he adds, "I'm proud that this man is my sheriff."
Several other members of the sheriff's office and community members also spoke at the news conference in support of Babeu, with many noting that Babeu's sexual orientation was unimportant to them.]
From the New Times article:
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — who became the face of Arizona border security nationally after he started stridently opposing illegal immigration — threatened his Mexican ex-lover with deportation when the man refused to promise never to disclose their years-long relationship, the former boyfriend and his lawyer tell New Times.
Today, the Arizona Republic followed up on the New Times piece, in which Babeu denied that he threatened the man identified as Jose but acknowledged that they knew each other and the sheriff "had seen [Jose] on a personal level." Asked to expand, he said:
"My personal life is exactly that."
The New Times article reported that Babeu had maintained an adam4adam profile while dating Jose, which led to Jose setting up a fake profile to determine that Babeu was cheating on him. The article reports that the two had first met years ago on gay.com and that Jose later worked on the web site and similar web-based aspects in Babeu's campaigns.
The article notes, "Babeu's presence on the national stage reached a new high in May 2010, when he was featured in U.S. Senator John McCain's 'complete the danged fence' TV ad. Babeu's inclusion was meant to bolster the senator's credibility on border security during a heated Republican primary race against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth."
Notably, the story could reach beyond Babeu. On the last page of the extensive article, it details a connection between Babeu and out gay state Rep. Matt Heinz (D), who recently announced that he was going to run for the U.S. House seat from which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) resigned.
The New Times reports:
Openly gay Tucson state Representative Matt Heinz was one of two Democratic lawmakers who broke ranks with the party in March 2011 and voted to give Babeu $5 million to combat border violence. Other lawmakers opposed the measure, in part, because Babeu's county is at least 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The measure finally was pared down to $1.7 million and passed by the Legislature.
About a week after Heinz's nod to Babeu, the sheriff spent the night at Heinz's home, text messages that Jose shared with New Times show.
"I'm at Mat Heinz and his boyfriend for dinner & ice cream . . . we are going out to bar and . . . to their house. [Am] staying over," Babeu texted to Jose at 1:04 a.m. last April 2.
UPDATE @ 2:20P: Talking Points Memo reports that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign released a statement announcing that Babeu "has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him."
UPDATE @ 6P: Watch Babeu's news conference:
[Photo: Screen capture of Babeu at today's news conference.]
WATCH Babeu defending Arizona's anti-immigrant bill, S.B. 1070, at CPAC this past week: