MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has strongly denied an allegation that he has used racist language to refer to some residents.
Merrill called the allegation “entirely false.”
The denial comes after AL.com reported Wednesday that Merrill admitted to having an extramarital affair after previously denying it. He announced Wednesday that he will not seek any elected office in 2022, though he did not cite a specific reason for that decision.
The affair and other allegations against Merrill were first reported by National File, a right-wing website, on Tuesday. According to the National File report, the woman Merrill reportedly had an affair with claimed, among other things, that he referred to Black residents as “coloreds.”
The Alabama Democratic Party called on Merrill to “apologize and resign immediately” if the allegation he used racist language is true.
The party released a statement saying the affair allegations were related to his personal life, but it was “much more concerned about the allegation that he regularly referred to African American judges and citizens in Alabama as ‘The Coloreds.’”
In a statement Thursday, Merrill called the allegations “baseless and politically motivated,” and said “they have no validity.”
“There has never been a time in my service where any hint of this type of behavior or language has been introduced, and there is still no evidence of this today. It is a false accusation and I condemn any and all acts of hatred or racism. I stand firm in my belief that racism has no place in our society,” Merrill stated.
The alleged mistress also claimed to National File that Merrill used his state-issued vehicle and cell phone to facilitate the affair.
Gov. Kay Ivey was asked Thursday if Merrill should resign following the allegation he misused state resources.
“So my heart goes out to those people who have been injured or suffered disparity in any way. I think you should talk to Secretary Merrill about his intentions going forward and I’ll leave that decision to him on whether he’s got the trust of the people,” Ivey said.
The Alabama Democratic Party also addressed the state resources allegation, saying Merrill’s conduct is personal, “with the exception of the use of state resources to facilitate his affair.”
When asked about the allegation he used state resources during the affair, a spokesperson in Merrill’s office would only refer to the statement sent out Wednesday that announced he would not seek higher office.
Merrill told Gray Television political reporter Lydia Nusbaum he would not do an interview. He did not deny the affair. He would only refer to the statements already sent out.
Merrill has indicated he will continue in his current role as the state’s chief elections officer until his term expires in January 2023.
The governor reacted to the affair controversy Thursday saying, in part, that “it is always unfortunate when someone in public life, especially an elected official, betrays the trust of his family, his constituents and those who have supported him.”
The complete statements from Merrill, Ivey and the Alabama Democratic Party are below:
Secretary of State John Merrill
“The allegation is entirely false. I, along with my office, have worked in a bipartisan way with all groups – regardless of political affiliation, race, gender, socioeconomic status, or background. I have done this for the last thirty years that I have had the privilege of working with and serving the public. This has been apparent through my work with members of the Legislature, the Tuscaloosa County School System, local election officials, and many, many other groups. These charges are baseless and politically motivated. They have no validity. There has never been a time in my service where any hint of this type of behavior or language has been introduced, and there is still no evidence of this today. It is a false accusation and I condemn any and all acts of hatred or racism. I stand firm in my belief that racism has no place in our society.”
Gov. Kay Ivey
“It is always unfortunate when someone in public life, especially an elected official, betrays the trust of his family, his constituents and those who have supported him. My thoughts and prayers are with all who have been negatively impacted by these poor decisions and bad choices.”
Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Wade F. Perry
“With the exception of the use of state resources to facilitate his affair, Merrill’s personal life and conduct are just that - personal.
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.”