The Florida GOP Chair Was Accused of Rape. Is His Career Over?

Christian Ziegler repeatedly has denied the accusations and has said he has no plans to resign.

Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler addresses attendees at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee. Ziegler is under criminal investigation for allegations related to sexual battery, including rape, according to a complaint released on November 30, 2023 which was filed with the Sarasota Police Department. Paul Hennessy/Associated Press

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After Florida GOP chair Christian Ziegler was accused of sexual assault last week, the backlash against him was swift. Florida Governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, a former Ziegler supporter, said at a press conference last Thursday, “I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing given the gravity of those situations.” On Monday, State Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner called for his resignation.  On Tuesday, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) weighed in, writing in a statement, “I don’t see how Christian can continue to successfully act as Chairman while this cloud hovers over him.” Moms for Liberty, the Florida-based crusading parents’ rights group that Ziegler’s wife Bridget helped found, stopped short of criticizing him but their tweet expressing support for Bridget did not mention him.

Ziegler repeatedly has denied the accusations and has said he has no plans to resign. “We have a country to save and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up,” he wrote in an email to his supporters on Saturday.

He may have no choice. On Tuesday, Evan Power, the vice-chair of the Florida GOP called for a special meeting to discuss Ziegler’s future with the group. The news site Florida Politics reported that Evan Power informed the Florida GOP board members that he had asked Ziegler if he would consent to scheduling a special meeting this month, but Ziegler declined and instead suggested that the group wait till the regularly scheduled meeting in February. “It is the opinion of the many members that it is not an acceptable timetable,” wrote Power. The special meeting is proposed for December 17.

Since the initial story of Ziegler’s alleged sexual assault broke, new details have been reported. According to a police affidavit on October 2, Ziegler messaged the alleged victim, who had been involved in a consensual threesome with him and Bridget a year prior, and proposed another sexual encounter between the three of them. When the woman learned that Bridget wouldn’t be available after all, she backed out and told him she “was mostly in it for Bridget.” Surveillance video shows that five minutes later, Ziegler showed up at the woman’s apartment just as she was preparing to walk her dog. Ziegler “bent the victim over the ‘bar stool’ and had sex with her,” according to the affidavit. The woman immediately called her sister to report having been raped.

Two days later, a friend of the woman’s called the police and reported the incident. Several officers went to the woman’s house, and she recounted the story to them. She was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where physicians completed a rape kit.

On October 27, the police opened an investigation, and the woman allowed them to direct her further conversations with Ziegler from behind the scenes. The affidavit recounts conversations they had via text, in which the woman told Ziegler she was “not okay with what happened the other day between us,” and that she was “terrified” of him. Ziegler said that he hadn’t intended to scare her, and asked if she needed money. 

The scandal is also roiling Moms for Liberty, the group that Christian Ziegler’s wife helped found. (She split from the group early on, but still serves on its board.) The Daily Beast reported this week that a Pennsylvania chapter of the group has broken away from the national organization over the incident. Bridget Ziegler, who admitted that she had been involved in a sexual encounter with her husband and the alleged victim, has been widely criticized for her outspoken opposition to LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and books—while also being involved in a bisexual relationship. Bridget was instrumental in the creation of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which forbids teachers in the state from talking about gender identity, and in some cases, same-sex relationships. On its website, Moms for Liberty lists the bill as a “model policy” for other states to emulate. 

Read the police affidavit here.

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