Top news story in Phoenix Friday surprised many. An investigative reporter for the Phoenix New Times revealed heretofore unpublished information about Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. The report claimed two things: that Babeu is gay and that he threatened his former boyfriend with deportation, providing evidence of both.
Local stories are not often of interest throughout the country but over the past several years Sheriff Babeu found fame outside the state through his strong stand on border issues. He was often seen on national news speaking out against illegal immigration and the danger caused to citizens of his Arizona county. As a well-known figure he was chosen Sheriff of the Year in 2011 by the National Sheriff’s Association. Babeu was a popular speaker at Tea Party and other conservative events. Becoming a household name also led him to run for Congress representing the Pinal Arizona area. He appeared golden. A polished smile and quick wit he displayed a strong attitude for conservative values. A rising star, could anything stop him?
Last week the answer would have been a resounding NO. Today, it’s a definite maybe.
Social conservatives will likely be disappointed at the least. Though sexuality will be the key concern for some, others will accept this as a non-issue. More will be offended in the nearly nude self-photo of Babeu posted on a gay website looking for sex. For many it is not what a person does in his home but actions outside the house that will turn them. People have enough worries not to focus on a personal spat between former partners.
At a hastily called press conference on February 18, a dignified and straightforward Babeu stated emphatically that all allegations were false except for the fact that he is gay. He stated that the semi-nude pictures were personal and misused by the person to whom they were sent. He stressed numerous times that his focus was border issues and safety of citizens as sheriff and that he would be working towards strong fiscal responsibility as a member of Congress. At the conference Babeu was surrounded by supportive staff, community leaders and citizens.
One has to wonder though, why a sheriff with so much experience would not know that the digital communications particularly via the internet and text are never gone. Good judgment is a key quality needed for our represented officials. As seen in the Anthony Weiner case, embarrassing photos of oneself can destroy a career.
Like a shooting star will Babeu’s flame soon be extinguished? Will his image be too tarnished to win a seat in Congress or even reelection as sheriff? Will the New Times story hold up to scrutiny? Can Sheriff Babeu be judged as he asked, “By the content of his character”? Only time will tell.