Speed Reads

Sex Scandals

Alabama secretary of state admits affair, denies calling Black people 'the coloreds,' drops Senate bid

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) said Wednesday morning that he did not have an extramarital affair, claiming that the woman who alleged otherwise, Cesaire McPherson, was "stalking" and "harassing" him. When AL.com played Merrill a recording of him and McPherson discussing various sexual acts they performed over dozens of encounters, Merrill acknowledged the affair and said he will not make an expected run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

"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 will obviously not be a candidate for the United States Senate nor will I be seeking any other elected position in 2022." Merrill, in office since 2014, was term-limited out of seeking a third term. Conservative Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and Lynda Blanchard, President Trump's ambassador to Slovenia, are both expected to run for Shelby's seat.

McPherson, 44, had provided explicit text messages with Merrill to the conservative website National File on Tuesday, then gave a 17-minute audio recording to AL.com, which posted an excerpt. "I don't want to say anything other than here's the proof that John Merrill is a liar," she told AL.com. "Here's the true John Merrill."

In a long interview with National File, McPherson said Merrill used his state car and state cellphone to carry on their affair, and also that he's a "real bad racist" who would refer to Black people as "the coloreds."

The Alabama Democratic Party highlighted those allegations. "With the exception of the use of state resources to facilitate his affair, Merrill's personal life and conduct are just that — personal," said Wade Perry, state party executive director. "The Democratic Party is much more concerned about the allegation that he regularly referred to African American judges and citizens in Alabama as 'The Coloreds.' If true, he must apologize AND resign immediately."

Merrill said it's not true, telling AL.com Wednesday night he "never referred to African Americans and Black folks as coloreds," adding: "I don't do that. I've never done that." Regarding the use of state resources, he said he doesn't "have any other things to say about this particular incident, now or in the future."