As rumors of an extramarital affair swirled around Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, the conservative Republican did what conservative Republicans do in times of controversy and tumult: He sought refuge in the warm embrace of conservative talk radio to line up his denials and get his story straight. “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,” Merrill, who is married with two children, told the local station Wednesday morning. “It’s very frustrating and very sad.” Elsewhere, Merrill, who has had his eye on the state’s soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat, went even further, labeling the woman he denied having an affair with as “stalking” and “harassing” him.
“Let me say unequivocally that these baseless allegations are entirely false,” Merrill said of the allegations. “Beginning in 2019, this woman began texting and communicating with me through social media. While we exchanged texts and she even visited the office, it was clear she had other intentions that were bordering on obsession. I alerted my wife, Cindy, to this and we both agreed to cut off any and all communication with her.”
While Merrill was summoning all of the righteous indignation he could muster, the legal assistant whom Merrill said he most certainly wasn’t having an affair with was handing AL.com a 17-minute recording of a phone call between the two that, ahem, indicated otherwise. On the recording was a discussion of “various sexual acts they performed during dozens of romantic encounters.” Merrill also appeared to try to end the affair, saying on the tape that he was seeking the Lord’s help to stay away from the woman. The woman, who said the relationship took place over three years, also accused Merrill of using racist language to describe Black people in the state.
When presented with the recording, Merrill acknowledged the relationship. “It’s clear that I had an inappropriate relationship with her, and it is not something that I am proud of or something that is something that—I’m very disappointed in myself,” Merrill told AL.com. “I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action. And it’s something that I certainly will always regret because of the pain that it has caused my family.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement that Merrill made “poor decisions and bad choices.” A real double whammy. As a result of those life choices, Merrill said he would forgo running for Senate next year but would not resign from his current post, which runs until January 2023.