I try not to write about an issue immediately when it’s an emotional one. I’ve done it before and said things that I still regret.
Just a day and a half ago, though, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu – an outspoken conservative and champion of immigration enforcement – came out as gay. He was forced to. This week, a “newspaper” known to Arizonans as a sensationalist rag called the Phoenix New Times printed a front-page story about a man known only as Jose who told a sordid tale of a scorned gay lover and the object of his affection, who apparently cheated. That lover was Paul Babeu. Pictures of the two together as well as text messages and screen shots of Babeu’s profile on a gay dating website – along with photos sent privately, not meant to ever be published – were added as proof that at least some of the allegations were true.
The problem is that one allegation reeks to high heaven – the most potentially damning of all, that Babeu personally threatened his ex with deportation if he ever said anything to the public about their relationship. It has been repeated so many times at this point that the media can’t even report it correctly.
The short version goes something like this: in 2006, Babeu and Jose met through online dating profiles. Jose wasn’t just a boyfriend – he also became an active volunteer for Babeu’s campaign, creating and maintaining the main website as well as accounts on Twitter and Facebook. At some point in 2010, Jose began to suspect that Babeu was cheating on him and set up a fake profile on a gay dating website to lure Babeu into telling the truth. Babeu sent photos of himself to a phantom named “Matt” – Jose incognito – photos of himself in his underwear and apparently of his erect genetalia. The photos were supposed to be private communication; they weren’t sent through major social media, they were sent through personal cell phones. Eventually Jose showed up at what was supposed to be the dinner liaison with Matt and Babeu realized he was caught.
Things only went downhill from there. Before all of that, Jose practically stalked Babeu. The very text messages meant to prove Jose’s story show that he showed up at Babeu’s house on multiple occasions and told Babeu he wouldn’t leave until he got home. Jose admitted to posting damaging comments on news stories about the Sheriff, even at one point saying point-blank that Babeu was gay and maintained a profile on a gay dating website. After the breakup, Jose was caught breaking into and posting on the Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as setting up another website – paulbabeu.co, now defunct – to humiliate him.
Here’s where the story gets a little fuzzy.
Jose says that Babeu’s lawyer, Chris DeRose, demanded that he sign a non-disclosure statement and immediately hand over control of Babeu’s profiles on social networking sites as well as shut down the fake site and never breathe a word about the relationship in public again. That is at least partially true as evidenced by Babeu’s own release of the document. What cannot be proven is the accusation that DeRose, not Babeu himself, tried to tell Jose that his visa was expired and further disclosure could result in deportation.
In the PNT story, the writer says that Jose’s lawyer “confirmed” the story as legitimate. What I can’t understand is how that lawyer can possibly confirm the account since she wasn’t present for the conversation where the accusations allegedly took place. Jose didn’t retain his attorney until after the supposed threat was made. The attorney cannot confirm anything as far as I can tell, and no documentation proving the allegation has been provided.
The original article is outrageously one-sided. Plenty of known anti-Babeu and anti-enforcement figures are quoted, but not a single Babeu supporter is represented. All the writer says is that Babeu refused to comment. The writer also says that Jose decided to approach PNT to get his story of fear and intimidation out to the public…why PNT? Why not state or federal authorities? If there’s proof, such a threat would sound the death knell of Babeu’s time in politics because it could be criminal. Babeu, for his part, says that he had every confidence that Jose was here legally and never questioned his status and he brings up a very valid point: a Sheriff has no authority to deport anybody.
There’s another twist to the story: Monica Alonzo, the writer, has a long history of supporting pro-immigrant and other very liberal issues. She’s not exactly an unbiased source.
I knew for a long time that Babeu was probably gay. My gaydar is famous among my friends; I knew, even though I never would have said so, that he was likely gay from the beginning. I am happy that he has come out but the method used to bring it about wasn’t mere coercion. It was brute force that dragged him out and I don’t think it was anyone’s business. Am I disappointed that he cheated on his boyfriend? Sure. I’ve also been disappointed to hear of friends and relatives who have done far worse (including one who slept with a married man and felt no remorse). Babeu isn’t married and trying to carry on a fallacy of a relationship to hide his orientation. He simply chose not to be open about it. As much as I would like the gay conservatives serving silently in politics and public safety would come out, I also believe it is their right to keep it quiet.
I don’t believe that Babeu threatened his ex with deportation. I’m definitely not willing to condemn the man over private photos sent over private lines of communication that never should have been released. I find it reprehensible that Jose would find a way to try to ruin Babeu. After reading everything I could find, I’m close to certain that this is character assassination carried out by a jilted ex-lover who couldn’t get over it. I’ve been hurt, too, and I cannot imagine doing that to another person out of spite.
UPDATE: it’s important that I let the readers know that I do not personally know Paul Babeu and did not solicit a comment from his office; this is purely an opinion piece. That said, while I applaud the Sheriff for telling the truth, I do not expect him to become an activist for gay conservatives. Whether or not he does is up to him, and all of us here at gayconservative.org will support whatever decision he makes. I only hope he will continue doing the exemplary job he has always done.