Missouri Gov. Dealing With A Sex And Blackmail Scandal During First Term
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Missouri's governor, a rising star in the Republican Party, has admitted to an extramarital affair, but he denies allegations of blackmail. St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum looks at whether the governor's political career can survive the revelations.
JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: Last night was supposed to be an opportunity for Eric Greitens to revel in his accomplishments before lawmakers. In his second State of the State address, he reflected on his year in office and charted out what he wanted to do in 2018.
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ERIC GREITENS: We promised the people of Missouri that we would fight for them. We have, and we will. We promised the people of Missouri we would do different. We have, and we will.
ROSENBAUM: But soon after Greitens left the floor of the Missouri House, a St. Louis television station made sure that people wouldn't be focusing on the governor's public policy agenda.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Good evening. Within the last 30 minutes, Governor Eric Greitens confirmed to News 4 that he did have an extramarital affair.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: And there's more investigation...
ROSENBAUM: It happened before he became governor, but the details were startling. KMOV's report included a tape recording of a woman talking about how Greitens took an intimate photo to prevent her from revealing the tryst. The woman is still publicly unidentified and has not commented or confirmed anything on the tape.
Greitens' attorney forcefully denied that any picture was taken or that Greitens threatened the woman against revealing the affair. He went on to add in a written statement that, quote, "the governor is in no way considering resigning. This is a long-ago private issue that was fully addressed by the Greitens years ago." The issue is also being addressed by the St. Louis circuit attorney. Kim Gardner said this afternoon she believe a criminal investigation is in order. All this isn't sitting well in Jefferson City with lawmakers like State Senator Jamilah Nasheed.
JAMILAH NASHEED: That's not the behavior of a governor, OK? Right now - we have a very dark cloud over the state right now.
ROSENBAUM: The St. Louis Democrat believes Greitens should resign. Before Wednesday, many national Republicans saw Greitens as a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate. He was a Rhodes Scholar, a Navy SEAL and leader of a charity that helped veterans. But Greitens isn't getting a lot of vocal support from Republicans controlling Missouri's Legislature. When he ran for office, Greitens railed against, quote, "career politicians." And it didn't stop after he was elected. David Barklage, a veteran Republican political consultant who's campaigned against Greitens, says that rhetoric had consequences.
DAVID BARKLAGE: When you have a lot of friends, they'll stand up for you and defend you. When you don't have a lot of friends, people will just be silent. Silence is the killer here. So I don't see necessarily interests coming forward that don't like him to try to use this to kill him. I think it's more the fact that they'll be silent and let him - you know, let him implode on his own if that's what happens.
ROSENBAUM: John Hancock was the Missouri Republican Party chairman when Greitens ran for governor in 2016. He says Greitens could survive if he's being completely forthcoming.
JOHN HANCOCK: If this is all there is and there is no other revelations that come out about this instance or certainly if there's no other women, then I do think he survives.
ROSENBAUM: But if Hancock is wrong, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson is a Republican like Greitens, so there may not be an incentive for the governor's GOP colleagues to keep him in office. For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis.
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