Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) on Wednesday admitted that he had an “inappropriate relationship” with a 44-year-old woman hours after he initially denied the extramarital affair, according to AL.com. Merrill also indicated that he will not run for the U.S. Senate after he had been rumored to run for the seat next year.
“I will obviously not be a candidate for the United States Senate nor will I be seeking any other elected position in 2022, because I think it’s important to me to make sure that I become the man that I have been before and that I am working to put myself in the position to be the leader that I have been before, as a husband, as a father, as a friend and as an elected official,” Merrill told AL.com on Wednesday afternoon.
The admission by Merrill, who is married and has two children, was issued hours after he denied the affair to AL.com in an interview on Wednesday morning. Merrill accused the woman involved in the affair, Cesair McPherson, of “stalking” and “harassing” him.
McPherson provided AL.com a short statement and a 17-minute audio recording of a conversation she had with Merrill last October, when both of them discussed various sexual acts they engaged in during dozens of romantic encounters. McPherson claimed that the encounters happened between November 2017 and November 2020.
According to AL.com, Merrill tried to end his affair with McPherson, who was reluctant to do so. Merrill told McPherson during the conversation in October that he was done meeting up with her and that he was supposedly seeking help from the Lord to stay away from her.
Responding to a portion of the recording on Wednesday, Merrill told AL.com that there is “no excuse” for his affair with McPherson while expressing remorse over his extramarital relationship.
“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. I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action,” he said. “And it’s something that I certainly will always regret because of the pain that it has caused my family.”
Among the salacious details in the audio recording of the October conversation between Merrill and McPherson provided to AL.com, McPherson asks the Alabama secretary of state whether they were done having sexual encounters.
According to AL.com, the Alabama secretary of state replied: “well, it was a pretty good day.” After McPherson asks again whether their sexual encounters are over, Merrill insists that “it’s supposedly the last time ever.”
After McPherson asks Merrill about sex acts she claims they engaged in on multiple occasions, the Alabama secretary of state reportedly told her later in the call that he is calling on God to give him the strength to end their affair.
“I am not able to stay away from you, so that’s the reason why I have to have help in order to do that … the help is coming from the Lord,” Merrill told McPherson, according to AL.com.
This isn’t the first time that an Alabama political titan has been taken down by extramarital affairs.
In 2017, an impeachment investigation led to then-Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) resignation, arrest and conviction after it revealed the alleged misuse of public funds to hide his affair with a top political aide, cringeworthy texts to his paramour, and the threats lobbed made towards those who stood ready to expose their tryst.
The impeachment investigation against Bentley also exposed another controversy for the then-Alabama governor: his administration’s decision to close 31 driver’s license offices, many in African-American-heavy counties, which prompted backlash nationwide over how the closures would affect voting access in a state that requires a photo ID to vote.
Amid Bentley denying that race played into the decision to close the driver’s license offices, Merrill told TPM at the time that although the closures posed “a real inconvenience” for those seeking a driver’s license, voting rights weren’t being threatened because the state also offered a voter ID card available at local board of registrars offices.