Florida Republican Party chair accused of rape

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Florida Republican Party chair Christian Ziegler is being investigated by the Sarasota Police Department, Ziegler's attorney, Derek Byrd, confirmed.

Byrd did not say what the allegations were, but in response to a CBS News question about the charges, the Sarasota Police Department sent a heavily redacted police report that mentions an accusation of rape and sexual battery that allegedly took place on Oct. 2 in Sarasota.

Late Thursday night, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called on Ziegler to resign as state party chair.

"I don't see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing, given the gravity of those situations," DeSantis told reporters in Alpharetta, Georgia, after his televised debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. "And so I think that he should, I think he should step aside."

"He's innocent 'til proven guilty, but we just can't have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny," DeSantis said.

Christian Ziegler attends a Republican rally in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 2, 2018.  / Credit: Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
Christian Ziegler attends a Republican rally in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 2, 2018. / Credit: Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The Florida Trident, a nonprofit organization focusing on government accountability, reported that a woman told the Sarasota Police that she and Christian and Bridget Ziegler have been involved in a three-year-long three-way sexual relationship. The Trident, citing sources close to the investigation, indicated that the events being investigated allegedly took place while Christian Ziegler and the woman were alone at the woman's house.

Bridget Ziegler is a co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a far-right group that identifies as a parental rights advocate and tries to elect right-wing candidates to school boards. The group opposes references to race or LGBTQ identity in the classroom, and has called for books on gender or sexuality to be removed from school libraries.

Byrd said Christian Ziegler "has been fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota Police Department" and added that once the police department concludes its investigation, he was "confident" that no charges would be filed and that "Ziegler will be completely exonerated."

The Florida Democratic Party has issued a statement calling on Christian Ziegler to step down as state GOP party chair.

"Christian Ziegler can't possibly continue to lead the Florida GOP under these conditions," said Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried. "Given the severity of the criminal allegations, I'm calling for his immediate resignation."

"As for the more salacious allegations — what happens behind closed doors is Christian and Bridget's personal business," Fried continued. "That being said, I do find it interesting that two people who are so obsessed with banning books about gay penguins might be engaged in a non-traditional sexual relationship."

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, was asked about the accusation against Ziegler during a news conference in Alpharetta, Georgia, before the DeSantis-Newsom debate. Moody said she had not seen the facts, so she had no comment.

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