Like Matt Gaetz, Alabama GOP Senate candidate denied sexual allegations -- until he didn't

Confronted with a tape discussing how he liked a "finger up his ass," Secretary of State John Merrill dropped out of the race

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This week we learned that Florida GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz, who’s been under federal investigation since Bill Barr was attorney general for alleged sex trafficking and alleged sexual assault of a minor, sought a “blanket pardon” from President Donald Trump before he left office — which he didn’t get.

Nonetheless, Gaetz has vehemently denied all the allegations — even fundraising off of them, posing himself as a victim — and no one in the GOP has called on him to resign, even as anonymous Republican House members have told the media that Gaetz creeps them out and has shown explicit photos and videos of his sex partners to colleagues on the House floor.

And in the same week, Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill, who was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama in 2022, reacted with outrage to a report on a right-wing blog that he had an extramarital affair with his legal assistant, rushing to a right-wing radio show — just like Gaetz rushed to Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show — to deny the report.

“People are attempting to use this to either advance the candidacy of other people, or they are doing it primarily to harm me and my family,” he said on the program yesterday. “It’s very frustrating and very sad.”

But just hours later, after a reporter confronted Merrill with a tape of the woman discussing his sexual activities, including his liking “a finger up his ass” — and stating “I’ve got so many text messages and I’ve got recordings of his voice talking to me, and saying things about sex and what we’re going to do” — Merrill dropped out of the Senate race.

Yet Merrill, as of now, is still Alabama’s Secretary of State. The hypocrisy of the GOP is only matched by its sheer lack of any moral core. Gaetz, while not charged with any crimes at this time, should at the very least be removed from his committee assignments by GOP leaders while this investigation proceeds, let alone be called upon to resign. And how the hell is Merrill, also reported by the woman to have made racist statements and called Black people “coloreds,” just dropping out of the Senate race but not resigning as Secretary of State?

Merrill complained in 2019 about how our society is too focused on “homosexual activities”:

The foundational principles which we have grown up as a nation are no more. There are no more good TV shows on like “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “The Virginian,” “Andy Griffith,” “I Love Lucy.” We don’t have those shows anymore. We’re too interested in homosexual activities.

But now we find out he likes anal probing. Nothing wrong with that — except if you’ve complained that it’s the rest of us who are too fixated on things like that, and that it’s somehow destroyed good TV.

Merrill elaborated to NBC at the time that, “what you have today is you have more interest in homosexual activities, you have interest in wife-swapping,” and blamed the media and soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who is open about being a lesbian and was very much in the news at the time, with helping to promote this supposed fixation.

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What’s really sad, however is this: When you look back at the full context of what he said, you see that Merrill was a philanderer trapped in a GOP that has targeted people for their sexual activity and was actually trying, in his own warped way, to take a stand that wouldn’t necessarily make him seem like a hypocrite and thus be targeted by people who might want to expose him. (This brings me back to Gaetz being the only U.S. House member to vote against a human trafficking bill — and, as someone who allegedly showed private photos of women he’d had sex with to colleagues, having voted against a “revenge porn” bill while in in the Florida Legislature.)

Merrill was actually trying to say — without saying it outright — that politicians and the media are too focused on people’s sex lives, and that he doesn’t want to focus on that. In that way he probably thought he could insulate himself from being the target of exposure. But the entire message came out garbled because, as a Republican in Alabama, Merrill still had to navigate being in step with the GOP’s anti-LGBTQ agenda.

It shouldn’t matter what any politician is doing in his or her private life as long as it involves consensual adults — and this sets Merrill apart from Gaetz, who’s being investigated for alleged sex crimes — but as long as the GOP is demonizing people for being queer, exposing their duplicity is absolutely necessary.

Got my second shot

I received my second shot of the Moderna vaccine yesterday — and took off yesterday and today from my SiriusXM show, figuring I might have some side effects.

But it’s been a breeze — no side effects at all!

We’ve been talking a lot on the show about getting vaccinated — and taking on vaccine resisters — so I think it’s important to be open about it and let everyone know it’s easy to do and it saves lives. We’ve had anti-vax callers to the show, and I posted one of those calls here on The Signorile Report, from a man who was outraged at the idea of a vaccine passport — and I’m glad to see the lively discussion around it.

The truth is, there won’t actually be a need for a vaccine passport if we reach herd immunity, with over 70% of the population vaccinated. But I don’t think we’re going to get there with all the resistance to the vaccine out there — and one way some people might get vaccinated is if they can’t go to a ball game or a concert without proof of vaccination.

So I see the passport not as something that’s policing people but rather as incentivizing them. Everyone should get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.