Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu (Photo from Babeu's Campaign website)
The story of Arizona's Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu – an anti-illegal immigration hardliner and a Republican rising star running for Congress – has been firing up news outlets that think they've hit the trifecta. Babeu came out as gay, refuted allegations that he threatened to deport his Mexican former lover after the ex threatened to out him, and Babeu resigned as volunteer co-chair Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in the state.
Last Friday, Babeu held a news conference pushing back against the tabloid report in Thursday's Phoenix New Times. On his campaign website, Babeu wrote:
Yesterday, a tabloid article made a number of false allegations about me. Only one was true: I'm gay. Today, I held a press conference to discuss this. I want to be judged on my service: 20 years in the military, two deployments - including one in Iraq, a police officer who has responded to thousands of calls for help, and a Sheriff who has cut response times while reducing my own budget. I hope you will stand with me as we talk about the issues that matter: securing our border and ending the record debt and deficit spending that is stalling our economy and bankrupting the country we all love.
But the story has become fodder for cable arguments, too, such as this one between openly gay columnist LZ Granderson and Will Cain on CNN this Monday morning. Here's how Mediate reported it, with Granderson saying he thinks Babeu resigned to not let the gay “rub off” on Romney. Video and more after the break.
[Will Cain:] "The only point I think we disagree with is whether or not this story has any bigger meaning or context, and I don't think it does. I think what you have here is largely a lover's spat between a sheriff and his ex-lover, meaning we shouldn't trust, by the way, what either side is saying right now. But we have a sheriff who's come out as gay. Big deal. I don't see the bigger story and I don't see how it impacts Mitt Romney's campaign."...
Granderson began by reminding Cain that Babeu "didn't come out as gay, he was outed," and noted that Babeu's actions seem to belie the notion that his resignation from Romney's campaign was about the scandal, not the gay. "This man is going to continue to run for Congress," he said, "but pull out of helping Mitt Romney run for president. Now I ask you, what are the qualifications to run for Congress, and how are they different than the ones helping him run for president? You know, why did he resign? Did he resign because he didn't think he was in an environment in which he could be openly gay?"
"I don't know how lz can draw that conclusion from one factor among three in this story," Cain responded, pointing out that the serious allegations against Babeu will continue to drive the story. "It's not hard to see why the sheriff would say, I don't know that I'm a good figure to be involved with the Mitt Romney campaign now, I'm not going to do this to this campaign."
"But I'm still good enough to be your congressman?" Granderson shot back. "Ii can't volunteer and help Mitt Romney run for president, but I can be your congressman? How does that make sense?"
"That only affects his own career," Cain said. "Perhaps he is taking a noble stance. I have some negative publicity around me right now. I don't think that should rub off on the guy I'm endorsing."
"I don't think the gay should be rubbing off on Mitt Romney is what he's saying. Not necessarily my scandal." Granderson replied.