Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admits to affair but denies blackmail allegation
Posted January 11, 2018 12:29 a.m. EST
(CNN) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted to having an extramarital affair, but denied blackmailing the woman with a nude photo, which was alleged to have been taken without her consent.
CNN affiliate KMOV published a report Wednesday after a months-long investigation into Greitens, a rising star in the Republican Party.
The governor and his wife, Sheena Greitens, released a joint statement late Wednesday that said years before he had been 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," according to the couple's statement.
KMOV aired parts of a recording of a woman telling her then-husband about a consensual sexual encounter she had with Greitens in 2015, before he became governor.
The woman's now ex-husband recorded their personal conversation without her knowledge.
In it, the woman said she went to Greiten's house where the sexual encounter took place, and that he had taken a photo of her while she was blindfolded. "You're never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures of me [the woman] everywhere," she recalled Greitens telling her, in the recording.
In the recorded conversation, the woman said Greitens apologized afterward and told her he deleted the picture, KMOV reported.
"He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person," the ex-husband told the station.
Greiten's lawyer, James Bennett denied there was any blackmail.
"There was no blackmail and that claim is false," Bennett 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."
Bennett said the TV station didn't make the recording or the transcript available to them before it ran on air and said its story "contained multiple false allegations."
"The claim that this nearly three-year-old story has generated or should generate law enforcement interest is completely false," he said.
KMOV's story didn't identify the woman and her now ex-husband. They divorced in 2016, according to the station. The woman also didn't make an on-the-record comment to the station.
When asked whether Greitens had ever made a settlement with the woman, Bennett said: "There has been no claim. No settlement. No settlement agreement."
The news of the extramarital affair came on the same night that Greitens delivered the State of the State speech.
Greitens and his wife said in their joint statement late Wednesday: "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 became governor in 2017 after campaigning as a political outsider, former Navy Seal, husband and father. He and his wife married in 2011 and have two children.
"We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God," said Sheena Greitens, in an additional statement. "I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children."