Michigan Rep. Todd Courser (R) admits he told a close aide that spreading a false rumor about having sex with a male prostitute in an alley behind a bar would be so shocking that the true story of him having an affair with a fellow state legislator would fly under the radar, or at least seem totally mild by comparison.
But Courser says, in a 27-minute audio recording he released today, that was pure subterfuge. He was not trying to keep the story of his affair with Michigan Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R) from going public as much as he was trying to trick people blackmailing him into revealing themselves and the extent of their operation.
Courser and Gamrat, both freshmen in Michigan’s state House, had a relatively short history of co-sponsoring each other’s favorite legislation that always centered on preserving Christian family values and blasting the possibility of legalizing same-sex marriage.
Courser said he had already come clean to his wife about the affair before the Detroit News’ exclusive story about the email telling the false story of his meeting with a male prostitute.
“Some marriages are easy, some are hard,” Courser said. “For those of you who have had an easy marriage this will probably make no sense to you.”
Courser claimed the fictitious story about hooking up with a male prostitute was a bid to “agitate the situation” because he didn’t know if the blackmailer, who was threatening to expose the affair with Gamrat, was operating from inside or outside his House office.
Courser admitted the attempt to fool the blackmailer was “over the top and wrong.” But he thinks it was also understandable because it was “done in a pressure cooker that put me in a situation where a bad choice was the choice that I made.”
“Listening to the tape I don’t even recognize my own self and can’t say that the tape has not been altered,” Courser said. “I was running on days and weeks with no food. I was simply on auto pilot.”
“It was not my finest moment,” he said.
Courser said the email worked in a way, though. It allowed him, Courser claims, to implicate one of his closest House aides and several close friends and political associates in the blackmail plot.
Ultimately, though, Courser blames Michigan’s political “establishment machine” for the blackmail plot. He said it was a reaction to his refusal to knuckle under to their demand to resign from office, lest the Gamrat affair be exposed.
“This is what they do,” said Courser. “They find a screw they can turn and they turn it.”
The weekend after the news of the Courser-Gamrat affair was published by the Detroit News and then went “worldwide,” as Courser put it, a number of Michigan Republicans called for the state representative’s resignation.
The first to call for his resignation was U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R). She said Courser’s stands on gay marriage, abortion, and family values only make what he did worse.
“Based on these revelations, under no circumstance can Todd Courser continue to represent the residents of Lapeer County, who are good, hard-working community and faith-based folks,” said Miller in a statement.
“This behavior is a slap in their face, especially from someone who presents himself as being a moralist.”
Michigan state House Speaker Kevin Cotter has called for an “open-ended” investigation of the conduct of Courser and Gamrat.
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel emailed a statement to PJM saying she supported Cotter’s call for an investigation.
“The allegations against Representatives Courser and Gamrat are very serious,” Romney said. “Speaker Cotter is taking appropriate action by having the nonpartisan House Business Office investigate and we are confident that the House will get to the bottom of this.”
The stars of the Michigan GOP do seem aligned against Courser now, and he said more damaging information could be released.
Courser, on today’s audio recording, said that the “blackmailer” warned him “he had many more hours of tape, enough to burn me down.”
But Courser is not going away quietly. He has refused to step down and said he will continue to work to expose the extent of the “establishment network” that is allegedly out to get him, something he described as “vital to the cause of liberty.”
“Bring what you have and let the public decide,” Courser said. “Men and women must be able to stand unafraid even when they are a broken messenger, and I certainly am a broken messenger.”
Gamrat, who is also married, failed to respond to PJM requests for comment. Courser has four children and Gamrat has three.
Both lawmakers are active in their state’s Tea Party movement.