Florida GOP Chair Refuses Resignation Amidst Rape Allegation

   The chair of Florida's Republican Party, Christian Ziegler, stands firm, refusing to step down amidst allegations of rape. In an email to supporters, Ziegler maintained his innocence but steered clear of addressing the specifics of the accusations that have stirred controversy within the state's conservative circles.

Ziegler, who took the helm of the state party in February, sent out the statement on Saturday, claiming that he and his wife, Bridget Ziegler, are being targeted due to their outspoken political stance. Bridget Ziegler is the co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a conservative group actively working with Gov. Ron DeSantis to reshape sex education in Florida schools.

While DeSantis urged Ziegler to resign last week to avoid distractions, Ziegler remains resolute in not stepping down. He emphasized the need to focus on their mission to save the country, dismissing the allegations as false.

Despite no charges against Ziegler, the Sarasota Police investigation remains open. The accuser, who has known Ziegler for two decades, reported in October that he forced his way into her apartment and raped her, as revealed in search warrant affidavits filed by the police.

In his Saturday email, Ziegler did not address conflicting statements given to detectives. He previously admitted to consensual sex with the woman but made no mention of this in the recent communication. Additionally, his wife told detectives about a past instance of group sex involving the couple and the accuser, but this was left unaddressed.

Ziegler, 40, expressed confidence in his family's resilience, stating that his wife is fully supportive and measures are in place to protect their three children. The couple did not respond to calls and messages seeking further comment.

The ongoing controversy has drawn attention to accusations of hypocrisy, as the Zieglers' organization, Moms for Liberty, aligns with DeSantis and the Florida GOP in opposing LGBTQ+ causes. Bridget Ziegler, an elected member of the Sarasota County school board, faces criticism alongside her husband.

The rape allegation against Ziegler became public through the Florida Center for Government Accountability, an investigative news organization. The accuser's identity is redacted in the documents, in line with the Associated Press policy on not naming possible victims of sexual assault without their permission.

Text messages referenced in affidavits suggest plans for group sex on Oct. 2, which were disrupted when Bridget Ziegler couldn't participate. The accuser alleges encountering Christian Ziegler in her apartment's hallway later that day, leading to the alleged rape.

In monitored text and phone conversations, Ziegler offered financial assistance to the woman, later becoming suspicious of being recorded. In a Nov. 2 interview with detectives, Ziegler claimed consensual sex and admitted to recording it, deleting the video but recovering it after the rape allegation surfaced.

On Nov. 2, detectives seized Ziegler's phone, yet findings from the investigation remain undisclosed to the public. DeSantis' spokesperson, Jeremy Redfern, has not commented on Ziegler's refusal to resign as of the latest update.