Florida GOP Ousts Christian Ziegler After Threesome Sex Scandal

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Florida GOP Ousts Christian Ziegler After Threesome Sex Scandal

Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler was ousted from his prominent state party role on Monday, weeks after a sex scandal shattered his and his wife’s image as paragons of family-friendly conservative values.

Ziegler didn’t appear for the closed-door meeting in Tallahassee, where an “overwhelming” number of party members voted to remove him, two officials told The Daily Beast. A few Republicans, however, were opposed to his departure.

The officials said the party’s executive board voted to replace Ziegler with Florida GOP vice chair Evan Power, who’d recently been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Ziegler didn’t return a message seeking comment.

In late November, nonprofit journalism outlet the Florida Trident revealed Sarasota cops were investigating Ziegler for allegedly raping a female friend who’d previously had a threesome with him and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler.

Since then, the Zieglers have defied vociferous calls to step down from their positions. Bridget Ziegler sits on the Sarasota County school board and on DeSantis’ Disney oversight board, created to punish the company for opposing his “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.

She did lose her job at the Leadership Institute, where she led a program training conservative school board and education activists. Even Moms for Liberty, which featured the Zieglers at their 2023 summit, issued a statement distancing themselves from her: “Bridget Ziegler resigned from her role as co-founder with Moms for Liberty within a month of our launch in January of 2021, nearly three years ago.”

Bridget Ziegler told detectives that she had one sexual encounter with the victim and her husband a year ago, according to a search warrant affidavit. Christian, the document adds, volunteered that he recorded his victim on the day she claimed she was raped. (Last week, a newly discovered search warrant revealed Sarasota police were also investigating him for video voyeurism in connection to the alleged assault.)

But police sources told the Trident that they’d obtained a second video: one depicting Bridget engaging in sexual activity with an unidentified woman.

Christian Ziegler has not been charged with a crime and denies his accuser’s claims.

I could have sworn he was going to resign in his final closing before we adjourned. Everybody was hanging on his words.

The 40-year-old MAGA activist has found little support among Republican colleagues. One GOP operative previously told The Daily Beast, “This is the one instance where everybody is not surprised, and is ready to go in for the kill. And it is not just Democrats.”

At a Dec. 17 emergency meeting, the Florida GOP’s 40-member executive board voted unanimously to reduce Ziegler’s roughly $120,000-a-year salary to $1 and strip him of his powers. (Days ahead of the meeting, GOP sources claimed that Ziegler requested as much as $2 million to leave the party; he denied this in messages to The Daily Beast.)

“I don’t see any way that he survives at this point,” one board member told The Daily Beast after the closed-door meeting. “He’s always going to be Chairman Threesome. Now he’s a CHINO: Chairman in Name Only.”

Before colleagues voted to discipline him, Ziegler told the room at an Orlando hotel that he didn’t do anything criminal and would be vindicated.

“His only apology was for putting us through this,” the fellow Republican told The Daily Beast.

“And a lot of people said, ‘Well, why didn’t he give a real, more heartfelt apology?’ That’s kind of my perspective as well.”

Ziegler had also pointed out that other committee members had arrests or convictions for drugs or driving under the influence and that the state GOP was “going down a slippery slope when it comes to morality clauses,” the colleague added.

“He found that to be surprising that people were going after him for this issue, when other people actually have had real charges against them,” they said.

“The reality is,” the person continued, “they’re only going after him because of the hypocrisy and the dance of social conservatism while being involved in non-traditional sexual relationships while being married.”

As The Daily Beast reported, the Zieglers skyrocketed to conservative fame in part as anti-LGBTQ crusaders. Christian once tweeted against a drag queen Christmas show, calling for an armed police raid of the event, and used his platform to attack Tom Edwards, an openly gay Sarasota school board member, for walking out of a meeting when a member of the public hurled homophobic comments. Bridget posted a selfie wearing a shirt reading “Real Women Aren’t Men,” and has opposed the district’s gender diversity guidelines.

Christian Ziegler looked defeated at the emergency meeting and didn’t seem to have prepared comments. “He was not on point,” the colleague said, noting that Bridget was absent. This person said Ziegler also brought his own parliamentarian, who was immediately ordered to leave because the person was no longer a Republican Party official.

He’s always going to be Chairman Threesome.

“I could have sworn he was going to resign in his final closing before we adjourned,” the person added. “Everybody was hanging on his words. He even said, ‘It’s been an honor to be the chair.’ And everybody was waiting: ‘Is he gonna say the words?’ Then he never said it.”

Ziegler warned people not to secretly tape the proceeding, and brought a letter from Compass Legal Group questioning the authority of the board to call the meeting.

“He said we’re not allowed to record in here—it will be a felony if you’re recording,” the colleague said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, says the guy accused of recording, you know, basically a sex tape without permission.’”

Executive board member Michelle Salzman told The Daily Beast that she found Ziegler’s apology to the board “very shallow.”

“Because he said I’m sorry that y’all are being put through this, but he didn’t resign,” Salzman said. “So if you’re really sorry, then why are you still here?”

Salzman demanded Ziegler’s resignation during the meeting to no avail.

“I said, ‘Look, nobody cares about your personal life. But when we are holding ourselves to a certain standard and your actions don’t equate to your words, it puts a black eye on the party, and it makes us look dishonest.”

Salzman said the party appreciates Ziegler’s service but his focus should be on fighting a criminal investigation and taking care of his family.

She and the other board member interviewed by The Daily Beast say they suspect Ziegler hasn’t resigned because doing so could reflect on his defense.

“Every single leader in Florida’s Republican Party has requested him to resign, including the unanimous vote by the board, and he’s still there. It’s embarrassing, because instead of us moving on, we’re still fighting this.”

“Our concern is saving America, and Christian’s concern is saving Christian.”

On Monday, the Florida Democratic Party also released a statement celebrating Ziegler’s exit.

“Florida Republicans are finally cleaning house,” FDP Chair Nikki Fried said. “Through six weeks of scandal and an embarrassing refusal to step aside, Christian Ziegler shredded every last ounce of his credibility on his way to political irrelevance.”

Fried added that she expected nothing would change under Power, the new chairman and that the GOP will “still be too busy fighting their made up culture wars to put forward policies that would actually make Florida a safer, healthier, more affordable place to live.”

“Allegations of sexual assault should always be taken seriously,” she said. “Even though Ziegler isn’t in power anymore, I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will continue to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of his criminal behavior.”

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