Merrill denies accusation of making racist remarks

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill continues to face fallout Thursday, tied to a report of an affair he had with a 44-year-old legal assistant.

In addition to the affair, Cesaire McPherson claimed that Merrill made racist remarks about Alabama’s black community throughout their relationship.

“Because he lied about that, it’s certainly in my mind very conceivable that he could be lying about his actual feelings and practices towards black people,” said News 19 political analyst David Person.

Person making a reference to Merrill’s initial denial of his affair with McPherson, which he later admitted in an AL.com report.

“We’re much more concerned about those allegations. That he called black judges, black people, the coloreds. And if those things are true, he needs to immediately apologize, and resign,” said Dexter Strong of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Merrill responded in a statement to News 19 on Thursday, and said in part, “The allegation is entirely false. There has never been a time in my service where any hint of this type of behavior or language has been introduced, and there is still no evidence of this today.”

David Person, on his own experience, interviewing Merrill: “I’ve never seen myself any indication that he was a racist in the classical sense of the word, but do I believe that he has followed the unfortunate tradition of a lot of southern white politicians to promote policies and practices that are discriminatory. Yeah, he absolutely has.”

Person’s referred to Merrill’s stance against automatic voter registration, and support of the state’s decision to close DMV voter registration locations in largely black communities back in 2015.

“For me, this is not about ideology. This is about, just being a decent person, whatever your politics are, whatever your ideological beliefs are, just be a decent person,” said Person.

Last year around the general election, Merrill also went to court more than once to oppose Alabama NAACP efforts to expand voter access through absentee ballots and curbside voting.

Merrill’s activity on social media has also come under the spotlight. Late last year Merrill retweeted a post calling Black Lives Matter protests a “war on whites.” And the Secretary of State has also been tied to other racially insensitive posts, including one expressing mixed support for the Ku Klux Klan.

News 19 did reach out to Merrill’s office, offering a chance to speak on-camera about the accusation made by McPherson, which he declined.

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