Metro Weekly

Christian Ziegler Removed as Florida GOP Chairman

Florida Republican Party officials stripped Christian Ziegler of his chairmanship amid an investigation into rape allegations against him.

Christian Ziegler – Photo: Facebook

The Republican Party of Florida ousted its embattled former chairman, Christian Ziegler, who is embroiled in a sex scandal that has led to him being accused of rape.

Ziegler, who had many of his powers stripped away and his $12,000 per-year salary reduced to $1 last month, has been accused of raping a woman with whom he and his wife Bridget, a Sarasota County School Board member, reportedly engaged in a sexual tryst over a year ago. 

As reported in November by the Florida Trident, the woman arranged to have another sexual encounter with the Zieglers on Oct. 2, but backed out after learning Bridget Ziegler had another engagement.

The woman alleges that Christian Ziegler showed up at her residence, uninvited, bent her over a piece of furniture, and raped her.

Ziegler, who has not been charged with a crime, has denied the rape allegations, insisting that the encounter was consensual. He reportedly told police he had recorded video of the encounter that proves his side of the story.

Police obtained that video, as well as a second video, the latter of which allegedly depicted Bridget Ziegler engaged in sex with another woman, as part of their investigation. But the existence of the first video has prompted an examination into whether Christian Ziegler may have violated Florida’s video voyeurism law, a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison if the video is found to have been filmed without the consent of those filmed. 

According to the Trident, Ziegler’s accuser told police she did not consent to being filmed. But Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, told police that the woman sent an Instagram message in “vanish mode” to Ziegler asking if he showed the video to his wife, which would appear to imply consent.

However, the woman told police that she never sent such a message, saying she initially did not know of the video’s existence. Bridget Ziegler, for her part, also told police she knew nothing about the video.

As the investigation continued, Ziegler faced calls from Republican Party leaders — including Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz — to resign from his position. When he refused, party officials suspended him and stripped him of most of his powers as chairman.

According to The Associated Press, on Monday, a “vast majority” — no official vote tally was given by the AP — of 200 members of the state party voted to remove Ziegler entirely from his role, arguing that the accusations swirling around him had become a distraction for Republicans, including DeSantis, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination. 

State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill), a former state party chair, told the AP that Ziegler was not in attendance at the meeting to remove him as chairman. He noted that no one present publicly spoke in favor of Ziegler.

“We’re spending a lot of time and energy on this meeting instead of focusing on the things we need to focus on and that’s simply because Christian Ziegler did not do the right thing and resign,” Ingoglia said. “There’s been some harm done to the Republican Party of Florida.”

Evan Power, previously the party’s vice chair under Ziegler, was chosen as the party’s new chairman.

Interestingly, in Republican circles, Ziegler is seen as more aligned with former President Donald Trump, while Power is closer to DeSantis, potentially heightening divisions within the state party as Trump and DeSantis supporters fight for power.

“Christian Ziegler, in addition to the appalling rape allegations against him, deployed disgusting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to fundraise and support candidates pushing even more discriminatory legislation that helps no one,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement following news of the ouster.

“Ziegler and his wife Bridget, a co-founder of the book banning group Moms for Liberty, used their power and platforms to unleash discriminatory policies and harmful rhetoric, leading an epidemic of shameful book bans and school censorship policies.

“Every American must use their voices and votes to speak out against extremist anti-LGBTQ agendas, hold every elected official and leader accountable for their words and behavior, and speak up for everyone’s fundamental freedoms.”

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