One day after Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens celebrated his administration’s work combating violence against children, the man once speculated as a potential national candidate reportedly vowed to remain in office following accusations that he had blackmailed and physically assaulted his former mistress.
“This happened before I was governor… It has nothing to do with my mission as governor,” Greitens reportedly told donors on a conference call on Thursday.
Allegations that Greitens conducted an extramarital affair first emerged hours after the first-term Republican had finished his second “State of the State” address at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. In a recording provided by the ex-husband of Greitens’ unnamed former lover and first made public by local news station KMOV News, the woman detailed her first alleged sexual encounter with the governor.
“I met Eric a year ago and I instantly had a big crush on him,” the woman told her husband on the recording, made in 2016. “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.’
“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.”
What Greitens did next, the woman said, made her sick.
“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.”
On Thursday, TPM reported that the woman also told her husband that Greitens had slapped her.
“Greitens invited her to the Greitens family home and into a guest bedroom,” Roy Temple, a Missouri Democratic operative, said when relaying what he had been told by the woman’s husband. “Before engaging in sex, Greitens asked if she had had sex with anyone since their last encounter. According to the account he gave me, she replied that she had had sex with her husband, at which time Greitens slapped her.”
In a joint statement issued late Wednesday, Eric and wife Sheena Greitens admitted that the governor had been “unfaithful” in his marriage, calling the affair “a deeply personal mistake.”
“Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together, honestly and privately,” the statement read. “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.”
Greitens’ attorney James Bennett denied the blackmail allegations as well as allegations that Greitens had physically assaulted the unnamed woman.
“The latest reporting has finally disclosed that the reporting was being driven by a ‘source’ who is the former Democrat state party chairman and who apparently has not spoken to the person in question,” Bennett told The Daily Beast. “This goes a long way to explaining what is going on.”
Bennett continued, calling the initial reports “a political hit piece” with “no matter of public interest at stake” related to Greitens’ tenure as governor.
“This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake,” Bennett said. “Eric and Sheena have worked through those issues long ago.”
Messages left with Greitens’ office were not returned.
A telegenic Rhodes scholar and former Navy SEAL, Greitens was once considered a rising star in the Republican Party: He had once worked in refugee camps, was a New York Times bestselling author, founded a nonprofit that helps veterans re-adapt to civilian life, and served four tours of duty in the Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia.
But his perfect-on-paper résumé belied a difficult relationship with Missouri Republicans. Greitens, who ran as a conservative outsider intent on ferreting out corruption in Jefferson City, made numerous enemies in the Capitol by axing popular tax incentives for building low-income housing.
A New Missouri Inc., a dark-money funded nonprofit founded by Greitens former campaign treasurer, attacked fellow Republicans in the state Senate for “siding with liberals,” and in one case published a Republican senator’s cellphone number so voters could tell him to stop playing “personal political games.”
Rob Schaaf, the senator named in that ad, isn’t so confident that Greitens’ determination to stay in office will stick.