Missouri politics was rocked late Wednesday night when Gov. Eric Greitens (R) admitted to an extramarital affair amidst allegations that he blackmailed a woman with a naked photo he took during one of their sexual encounters. The news broke just hours after the Governor delivered his second annual State of the State address. Greitens admitted to the affair in response to a report by KMOV News 4 in St. Louis. He also released a joint statement with his wife Sheena in which the two say they have moved on from the affair. The affair reportedly occurred in 2015, more than a year before he was elected Governor in November 2016.
Politicians are frequently able to weather scandals based on extra-marital affairs. But the allegation of blackmail makes the story considerably more serious and politically perilous.
According to the KMOV report, the story emerged from the now ex-husband of the woman Greitens was involved with. The husband confronted his wife with his suspicions of infidelity days after the encounter in question and then surreptitiously recorded her confession. Almost three years later he shared that recording a reporter from KMOV.
According to the wife, who remains unnamed in the story, she was originally Greitens hair stylist. A flirtation escalated until Greitens persuaded the woman to come to his house where they had a consensual sexual encounter involving light bondage. At least some of the encounter frightened her, according to what she later told her then-husband. “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.”
It was while she was blindfolded and bound to a piece of exercise equipment that Greitens allegedly took a photograph of her and threatened that he would make it public if she ever revealed their encounter. “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 [you] everywhere.”
According to the women, Greitens later apologized and said he had deleted the photograph. The woman and her husband tried to reconcile but their marriage collapsed. The husband apparently believed Greitens was still pursuing his wife.
As you can see, beyond the facts and allegations of the story itself, the details of how it came to light and who was recording who or who was photographing who are fairly complicated. The former husband was calling Greitens a “homewrecker” on social media on election day 2016. Reading between the lines, those outbursts apparently got reporters on the trail. But it took a year for the story to emerge publicly. The husband told KMOV that he had recently been contacted by the media and law enforcement and wanted to get ahead of the story. “This didn’t just destroy our marriage, it destroyed an environment, an ecosystem, this destroyed it all.”
It is not clear from published reports why law enforcement would be involved or seeking to speak to the ex-husband. But the threat of blackmail, if proven, could potentially constitute a crime.
The statement released by Greitens and his wife reads as follows …
“A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. 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.”
Sheena Greitens added the following …
“We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.”
The Greitens’ statement did not address the accusations of blackmail. But Greitens’ attorney released a separate statement denying that claim. “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.”
Other news organizations apparently had much of the information contained in the KMOV report, including the recording of the woman who was involved with Greitens, but did not publish because the woman in question declined to be interviewed.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch …
The Post-Dispatch also has possession of the audio and has interviewed the ex-husband. The newspaper had previously decided against writing a story based solely on the husband and the audio recording, because the woman in question has consistently declined to be interviewed. However, Greitens’ public acknowledgment of an affair made it necessary to revisit that decision.
Neither KMOV or any of the other publications have revealed the name of the woman who Greitens had the affair with or that of her ex-husband.