Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admits to affair, denies blackmail
A Former Navy SEAL officer won the Republican primary for Missouri governor. Eric Greitens cast himself as a conservative outsider willing to use his military bravado to blow up perceived corruption in government. (Aug. 3)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The governor of Missouri admitted to having an extramarital affair with a woman before he took office, a St. Louis TV station reported late Wednesday.
The accusations were published a year and a day after Gov. Eric Greitens was inaugurated and hours after the Republican governor delivered his second State of the State address.
A spokesman for Greitens told the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader before the report was published that he did not plan to take questions from the media. Questions about KMOV-TV's report were referred to attorney James Bennett, who provided the News-Leader with two statements, one of them a joint statement from Eric and Sheena Greitens.
"A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage," the joint statement says. "This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately. While we never would have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive — but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers."
Another statement came from the first lady, an assistant political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
"We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God," Sheena Greitens said. "I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children."
Bennett said neither Eric nor Sheena Greitens would take questions about the matter Wednesday night. The News-Leader was not immediately able to independently confirm the allegations in the TV station's report, which did not name the woman involved nor her ex-husband, who spoke to KMOV-TV.
Greitens' statement did not address other allegations in KMOV's report, which includes a recorded phone conversation between the woman and her ex-husband.
KMOV reports Greitens had a consensual "sexual relationship" with the man's ex-wife, who did not comment to the TV station for its story.
KMOV, leaning on the recorded conversations, reported that Greitens invited the woman to his house and "scared her" by blindfolding her, photographing her and telling her not to talk about it.
The ex-husband described Greitens' taking nude pictures of the woman as "blackmail," and he and his attorney, Al Watkins, said they had been in contact with law enforcement recently, KMOV reported.
The woman told her ex-husband on the recording that Greitens apologized afterward and said he had deleted the photograph, KMOV reported.
The ex-husband's attorney, Watkins, released a statement after they were asked about KMOV's report.
"When a person in a position of power decides to belly up to the bar, it is always wise to belly all the way up," Watkins said in an email. Asked for clarification, he continued: "I am strongly suggesting a fully forthcoming acknowledgment of his actions is a far more prudent course to pursue than a statement crafted to minimize his role and the ensuing devastation which inured to the detriment of innocents."
After the story ran, Greitens' attorney provided a third statement denouncing the report.
"The governor has now seen the TV report that ran tonight," said James Bennett in the statement. "The station declined to provide the tape or transcript in advance of running their story, which contained multiple false allegations. The claim that this nearly three-year old story has generated or should generate law enforcement interest is completely false. There was no blackmail and that claim is false. 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."
Greitens is in his second year as governor and had been rumored as a potential presidential candidate. His top campaign adviser, Nick Ayers, is now Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff.
The reported affair is raised amid the backdrop of a national consciousness-raising about acts and accusations of sexual impropriety by men, usually involving or against women. Congressmen have resigned, entertainers have faced social backlash, and the anti-harassment #MeToo movement has gained steam over the last several months.
Earlier this year, Greitens made a point of appointing 25 women in 25 days to mark the 25th anniversary of the Women's Foundation. In announcing the slew of appointments, Sheena Greitens noted that her husband had installed a "majority-female cabinet" to compose his administration.
In 2015, Republican John Diehl resigned as Missouri House speaker after admitting to exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with an intern. Later that year, Democrat Paul LeVota left his state Senate seat while denying claims that he had sexually harassed interns.
A New York Timeswedding announcement from 2011 notes that Greitens' "first marriage ended in divorce."
Follow Will Schmitt on Twitter: @ws_missouri