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Wisconsin Republican Peter Schmidt, who appears to be a lock for a seat in the State Assembly in November’s elections, is downplaying his past same-sex flings in an effort to stay on the good side of conservative Christian voters.

Earlier this month, Schmidt won a six-way primary by a mere 63 votes to become the Republican nominee for the reliably red District 6 seat. But his nomination means more people are sifting through his past… and that’s troubling for two key reasons.

The first big problem came in November of 2019 when Schmidt (a Shawano County Board member at the time) was accused of strangling a staffer at his family’s farm.

According to an incident report obtained by OnlySky, on November 22 of that year, two employees who lived at the farm told an officer they had overslept for an early morning shift. Schmidt allegedly barged into the residence, “yelled at them,” then grew even angrier when they weren’t ready 15 minutes later. At that point, the employees said they weren’t going to work… and that set Schmidt off:

A portion of an incident report filed against Peter Schmidt

Peter then held [victim] down onto the bed, pressing downward around the base of [victim’s] neck, causing him pain without his permission. [Victim] was having difficulty breathing and started losing consciousness and did not fight back because he was afraid of him and that he may do something worse if he fought back. [Victim’s colleague] recorded this interaction with his phone. The video depicts Peter holding [victim] down by the throat to where the bed sinks

Schmidt later told the officer he held the victim “in place by his neck but didn’t choke him out.” Either way, he was arrested and later charged with Disorderly Conduct (a misdemeanor) and Strangulation and Suffocation (a felony). He was eventually sentenced to two years of probation, had to take anger management classes, underwent a psychological assessment, and ordered to write an apology letter to the victim.

This was all known at the time Peter Schmidt entered the Wisconsin Assembly race. In fact, the local GOP chair told WisPolitics.com that Schmidt has been censured due to the criminal conviction, a move that prevents him from attending local Republican events or displaying campaign materials at their headquarters. The chair also urged Schmidt to drop out of the State Assembly race… but those pleas went ignored. Now, WisPolitics notes, the Shawano GOP says it won’t support Schmidt’s campaign because “members believe criminals do not reflect the values of the party.” (The irony of Republicans saying criminals don’t reflect their values shouldn’t be lost on anyone.)

But here’s the obvious question: Why didn’t they say all this publicly before the primary?

“We didn’t take action before because, to be honest with you, we did not believe he was going to win,” [Shawano GOP Chair Richard Kucksdorf] said, referring to Schmidt.

They didn’t think he was going to win, so they didn’t publicize his criminal history, and then he won. Funny how that works. The censuring is hardly a punishment, too, because there’s very little chance any Republican will lose a race in this particular district.

All of that, however, pales in comparison to the second story now coming out about Schmidt. (It was previously reported at LGBTQ Nation, however that article was based on a single paywalled source, making it difficult to confirm.)

About a month after he assaulted one of his employees, on December 31, 2019, Schmidt visited the local sheriff’s office to make a complaint of his own: Someone was trying to blackmail him.

The unknown suspect was demanding $50,000… in exchange for not releasing a sex tape of Schmidt “performing oral sex on another male.”

According to that incident report, also obtained by OnlySky, Schmidt admitted the recording was real. He said he had been “in a relationship” with another man who worked on the Schmidt Ponderosa Farm, and that the tape in question depicted one of their “many” hookups.

A portion of an incident report filed by Peter Schmidt

Peter Schmidt stated that this act happened while no one else was around( they were alone). This was a free and voluntary sexual act between the two of them. There had been many sexual encounters between Peter Schmidt and [his partner], however there was only one shown in the recording.

Schmidt didn’t know he was being recorded, but someone obtained the footage, contacted him on WhatsApp using an untraceable number from Mexico, and said he would send the tape to Schmidt’s father and brother (whose phone numbers were included the message as if to suggest he wasn’t joking) unless he received $50,000.

Schmidt negotiated the price down to $5,000 over the course of a couple days… but never actually paid it. According to the report, he then “told his family of his life style choice… (homosexuality).”

The case was closed just days later with no further action by law enforcement, because there just didn’t seem to be any way to figure out where the messages were coming from.

Obviously, all of this is awful. Schmidt’s consensual sexual acts are no one else’s business. For someone to use a private sex tape as a weapon of extortion is abhorrent. Honestly, I feel dirty even reading through the incident report.

But.

Schmidt is running for office as a Republican, a party that is hell-bent on blocking civil rights for LGBTQ people and openly pushing policies that make their lives worse. This may not be Ted Haggard-level hypocrisy, but it’s in the ballpark.

It doesn’t help that when WisPolitics contacted Schmidt for comment about this incident, he insisted he was no longer gay while playing up his conservative Christian bona fides.

“I was the victim of a crime, but I’ve put the matter behind me and I’ve focused on my faith,” Schmidt said in a statement to [WisPolitics.com]. “I’m a strong conservative and Christian, but there was a brief moment I struggled with my sexuality. No one should be persecuted or smeared for their personal orientation.”

It’s hard to understand how he “struggled” with his sexuality for a “brief moment” when he admitted to “many sexual encounters” with that other man over the course of an entire year and told his family about his “life style.”

And it’s not like this is ancient history. It happened literally a few summers ago when Schmidt was approximately 27, not at some church camp when he was in middle school.

But he’s right that no one should be persecuted over their sexual orientation.

So why the hell is he a member of a party that routinely persecutes people over their sexual orientation?

It’s not like Schmidt supports LGBTQ rights but holds conservative views on everything else.

In a questionnaire he filled out for the political arm of the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, Schmidt said he supports the right of business owners to refuse to work with LGBTQ customers, opposes transgender girls competing in women’s sports, wants parents to be able to “obtain professional counseling” for their trans kids so that the parents can “reach their desired outcomes,” and opposes adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes in the state’s non-discrimination laws.

A portion of Peter Schmidt’s questionnaire for the political arm of Alliance Defending Freedom

Peter Schmidt, who said no one should be persecuted for being gay, would use his political power to persecute gay people. In the name of Jesus.

He’d go after women, too. He proudly proclaims he’s “100% pro-life with no exceptions,” meaning he’d gladly sacrifice a woman’s life to save a fetus.

I reached out to Schmidt for comment on Wednesday night. As of this writing, I still have not heard back.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.