After initially denying reports of an affair, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Wednesday afternoon told AL.com that he had “an inappropriate relationship” with a 44-year-old woman and will not make an anticipated run for the U.S. Senate.
“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 said.
In an interview with AL.com on Wednesday morning, Merrill denied having had an affair and accused Cesaire McPherson of “stalking” and “harassing” him.
McPherson declined to answer questions on the record Wednesday, instead providing a recording and a short statement.
“I don’t want to say anything other than here’s the proof that John Merrill is a liar,” she said. “Here’s the true John Merrill.”
McPherson provided Al.com with a recording of an October 2020 conversation between her and Merrill. In the 17-minute recording, Merrill and McPherson discuss various sexual acts they performed during dozens of romantic encounters that McPherson says took place between November 2017 and November 2020. During the conversation, Merrill seems to try to end his relationship with McPherson, who was reluctant to break off the affair. He told her they had met for the last time and that he was seeking help from the Lord to stay away from her.
After being played a portion of the recording Wednesday, Merrill, who is married with two children, told AL.com “there’s no excuse” for 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.”
McPherson’s allegations were first made public yesterday on the right-wing web site National File.
Early in the call, McPherson asks Merrill, “the last time that we had sex, that’s the last time ever?” Merrill responded, “well, it was a pretty good day.” McPherson asks again if “that’s the last time ever” and Merrill says “it’s supposedly the last time ever.”
McPherson goes on to ask Merrill in explicit detail about sex acts she says they engaged in on multiple occasions and about specific locations.
He told her later in the call he hoped to draw strength from God to resist continuing 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,” he said.
“You already went against your marriage … So you’ve already done it, you can’t take that back, you can’t change it,” McPherson said.
“Can’t take anything back. Can’t change anything. All I can do is what I can do from today forward,” Merrill responded.
He was widely expected to run for U.S. Senate in Alabama in 2022 and his campaign manager had already listed himself as working for Merrill for Senate on social media.
Late Wednesday, after having listened to a portion the recording, Merrill reflected on what it had cost him and those around him.
“I hope someone can use me as an example of how they have the opportunity to accomplish things, but because of poor choices and poor decisions in things, it can result in a negative impact for a lot of people that you did not intend to impact,” Merrill said. “That’s because I exercised poor choices and poor discipline. Maybe some good can come out of this for somebody else.”