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Missouri governor admits having affair but denies blackmail

  • FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2018, file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens delivers the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate in Jefferson City, Mo. Responding to a news report that overshadowed his annual address, Greitens acknowledged he's been "unfaithful" in his marriage but denied allegations that he blackmailed the woman to stay quiet. The Republican governor and his wife released a statement late Wednesday, after a report that he had a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser in 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) Jeff Roberson

  • Eric Greitens delivers the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate in Jefferson City, Mo., on Wednesday. AP



Associated Press
Thursday, January 11, 2018

When Eric Greitens sought Missouri’s highest office in 2016, his resume seemed hard to top: former Navy SEAL, former Rhodes scholar and founder of a veterans’ charity. Most important, he said during the campaign, was his role as “a proud husband and father.”

On Thursday, the square-jawed Republican governor fought allegations that he photographed his hairdresser naked while having an affair with her and threatened to publicize the image if she spoke about their relationship. The top prosecutor in St. Louis quickly launched an investigation. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers asked the attorney general to investigate as well.

Greitens acknowledged being “unfaithful” in his marriage but denied taking any naked photos and blackmailing the woman to stay quiet.

The governor and his wife released a statement late Wednesday after St. Louis television station KMOV aired a bombshell report that he had a sexual relationship with the hairdresser in 2015. The report included allegations from the woman’s ex-husband, who secretly recorded a conversation with his ex-wife discussing the affair.

The affair was “a deeply personal mistake,” the Greitens’ statement said. “Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately.”

Grietens, 43, has been seen as a rising star in GOP political circles. During the campaign, he cast himself as an outsider going up against a career politician, the state’s Democratic attorney general. He barely hid his higher ambitions and reserved the web address ericgreitensforpresident.com years ago.

Through his attorney, the governor also denied an allegation from the ex-husband that Greitens slapped the woman, saying any accusation of violence is “completely false.”

The woman involved did not comment on the record to the TV station, which did not name her. But her ex-husband, who also was not named, provided the audio recording to KMOV. On the recording, the woman gave details about a sexual encounter she says she had with Greitens in March 2015 at his St. Louis home. The woman did not know her then-husband was recording their conversation.

The Associated Press learned her identity Thursday, but chose not to identify the woman because she could not be reached for comment. She did not return a call to the salon where she works, and an AP reporter who went there was told the hairdresser was not working.

The alleged encounter came after Greitens created a committee to explore a bid for governor but before he officially announced his candidacy. She said on the tape that he invited her downstairs at his home because he wanted to show her “how to do a proper pull-up.”

She said: “I knew he was being sexual, and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don’t know what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me.”

She said she later realized he took a photo of her.

“I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said, ‘You’re never going to mention my name.’“

A bipartisan group of state senators signed a letter asking the attorney general to investigate. Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office said it would defer to local prosecutors, as required by state law.

The letter signed by both Democrats and Republicans called the allegations “deeply disturbing” and said a swift investigation was necessary to avoid having the matter “overpower” the 2018 legislative session.

GOP leaders in the Missouri Senate released a joint statement urging Greitens to be “honest and forthright.” At least two Democratic state lawmakers called on the governor to resign.

The Legislature adjourned Thursday for the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Lawmakers were not scheduled to return until Tuesday.

Months after the affair, the hairdresser sent Greitens an email asking him to stop booking appointments at the salon.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the email was sent Oct. 20, 2015, three weeks after Greitens filed papers formally starting his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. It was sent to the same account that Greitens listed on a website he used in the campaign.

The newspaper did not say how it obtained the email.