Support for Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu has been mixed since the Pinal County sheriff found himself embroiled in allegations that he threatened to have his ex-boyfriend deported.
Arizona Sen. John McCain stood by his friend and political supporter.
“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 thorough and complete investigation if there is any allegations of wrongdoing,” McCain said. “All I can say is that he also deserves the benefit, as every citizen does, of innocence until proven guilty.”
Chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors Pete Rios disagreed.
“Clearly this is an issue that is not going away anytime soon,” Rios told the Arizona Republic. “It will be with the sheriff for quite a while and Pinal County for quite a while. We’ll see if the sheriff sees the light and that he is truly damaging his department, law enforcement and Pinal County with these allegations.”
Rios, who has been a critic of Babeu, said he planned to ask the Pinal County Attorney’s Office to investigate whether Babeu abused his power and possibly county resources, the newspaper reported.
Babeu, 43, allegedly told his ex-lover that unless the man signed a document agreeing to not reveal their relationship, he would be deported. The sheriff, who was not openly gay before his Saturday press conference, is also a leading candidate for Congress in Arizona’s Fourth Congressional District and has been a national voice in the fight against illegal immigration.
Babeu dismissed the allegation that he threatened his ex-boyfriend, who was only identified by his first name, Jose, as “blatantly, completely false.”
“At no time did I or anyone who represents me ever threaten deportation, ever” he said at a press conference Saturday. “I never believed he was less legal than I or you are.”
But texts obtained by the Phoenix New Times 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 & your family,” Babeu allegedly wrote on Sept. 4, 2011.
Nearly 800 people commented on Babeu’s Facebook page under a statement posted by the sheriff denying the “false allegations” but acknowledged that he is gay.
“The issue is not sexual orientation,” Patricia Selliger commented. “The issue is hypocrisy — a public stand on border security all the while allowing an illegal alien to work on your website and conducting a personal relationship with him. If we expect employers to verify employees’ status, public figures should be held to the same standard.”
But many supporters rallied around the sheriff.
“I’m so sorry you have to go through this! We all are so proud of you and follow what a wonderful job you do! Stay strong and be proud!” Donna Daub wrote.
And by all indications, Babeu has no plans to give up his congressional bid.
Saturday evening, the sheriff spoke at a dinner hosted by the Yavapai County Republicans, the Arizona Republic reported.
“So, how is your weekend going?” he joked in his opening remarks to the crowd.