Gov. Eric Greitens (R) admitted cheating on his wife but steadfastly denied his ex-lover’s accusation that he told her to strip naked, taped her to some exercise equipment, took a photo and threatened to send the picture viral if she talked about their affair.
But St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced Jan. 11 that her office would investigate the blackmail charge.
“The serious allegations against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens are very troubling,” Gardner said in a statement. “It is essential for residents of the City of St. Louis and our state to have confidence in their leaders.”
St. Louis TV station KMOV broke the story shortly after receiving a recording, provided by Greitens’ ex-lover’s ex-husband, in which the woman details their affair.
The ex-husband told KMOV the recording was made a few days after she and Greitens had sex for the first time. On the tape, the woman, who has not been named by KMOV, described Greitens’ actions as “terrible and disgusting.”
But the woman, who was at Greitens’ home to cut his hair the first time they had sex, also said on the recording that “this (expletive) tornado just happened. I know I brought it on myself.”
What she didn’t know was that her now ex-husband was recording her confession.
She described in detail how Greitens got her into position for a nude photo.
“He said: ‘I’ll make you feel better. I’ll make you feel good. Come downstairs. I want to show you how to do a proper pull-up,’” the woman said. “And I knew he was being sexual and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don’t what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me.”
“I didn’t even know. I feel like I don’t even know. I was just numb. I just stood there and didn’t (expletive) know,” she continued. “He stepped back, I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said ‘you’re never going to mention my name,’ otherwise there will be pictures of me everywhere.”
James Bennett, an attorney for Greitens, said the “source” for the story was actually a former Missouri Democratic Party chairman.
“This goes a long way to explaining what is going on — this is a political hit piece,” Bennett said in a statement.
“There was no blackmail and that claim is false,” Bennett also said. “This personal matter has been addressed by the governor and Mrs. Greitens privately years ago when it happened. The outrageous claims of improper conduct regarding these almost three-year-ago events are false.”
Unfortunately for Greitens, Bennett’s assurances may not be enough.
The New York Times reported it isn’t only Democrats who may use want to use these allegations to their advantage.
Greitens, an ex-Navy Seal and Rhodes scholar, established a political nonprofit shortly after being sworn into office in January 2017 that attacked his fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats.
And then there is the way Greitens speaks to those with whom he disagrees.
“I can see by your pupils in your beady little eyes that you’re afraid of me,” the Times reported Greitens said to Paul Wieland, a Republican state senator, as they argued last year over a legislative pay raise.
Some Democrats have already called for Greitens to leave office.
“Blackmail cannot be shielded as a family matter because blackmail is a felony,” Rep. Brandon Ellington (D) said. “Due to the serious nature of these accusations, I believe Eric Greitens cannot effectively function as governor and I strongly urge him to resign.”
Rep. Mark Ellebracht (D) called for a criminal investigation.
“Infidelity is unfortunate, but it is not illegal,” Ellebracht said. “Blackmail is illegal. … It is not fair for the governor to hide behind his family and use them as a shield for what should be a criminal investigation.”
Several Republicans signed a letter asking for a state attorney general’s investigation of the allegations against Greitens.
“If it exonerates him, we can move on,” Republican Sen. Gary Romine told the Kansas City Star. “If it doesn’t, he needs to resign or face impeachment.”
Greitens hasn’t made many friends in the Jefferson City press corps, either. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch complained that Greitens was refusing to answer questions he didn’t like, such as queries concerning the identity of a secret donor who had given him $2 million.
“When you don’t foster relationships with the legislators that you’re serving with and when you don’t foster relationships with the press who cover the state capital on a daily basis, that all can be just fine,” said John Hancock, a former chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.
“But when you then face a crisis,” Hancock added, “there’s no cavalry running to your defense.”