The Democratic governor of New Jersey who stunned the state with his resignation and admission that he was gay was forced to do so because a former adviser threatened to blackmail him, it was claimed yesterday.
James McGreevey claimed that an illicit affair made it impossible for him to remain in office. Two sources close to Mr McGreevey, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said the man involved in the affair was his former adviser, Golan Cipel, an Israeli poet who met the governor during a trip to Israel.
Another senior McGreevey adviser said Mr Cipel, who subsequently worked for the governor, had threatened to file a lawsuit against the governor charging him with sexual harassment unless he was was paid "millions of dollars."
With storm clouds gathering, Mr McGreevey, 47, a father of two children, appeared at a hastily arranged news conference in Trenton, New Jersey, with his wife, Dina. There he announced his resignation from the state's highest office.
"At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is," Mr McGreevey said.
"And so, my truth is that I am a gay American."
He confessed to having an extra-marital affair, saying: "I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony."
He said his behaviour had left him "vulnerable to rumours, false allegations and threats of disclosure". He went on: "It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable.
"Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign."
His wife, Dina, and his parents were by his side as he gave the speech. His wife has vowed to stand by him.
Mr McGreevey said: "From my early days in school, until the present day, I acknowledged some feelings, a certain sense that separated me from others."
Mr McGreevey's resignation will take effect on 15 November. He has served two and a half years as the state's governor.