A Republican governor who touted his credentials as a “proud husband and father” has denied he blackmailed a former mistress with nude photographs, but admitted cheating on his wife.
Eric Greitens acknowledged he had been “unfaithful” in his marriage but denied allegations he tried to force the woman to stay quiet, following a report in St Louis media that aired after his annual address to the state legislature.
Mr Greitens and his wife Sheena released a statement following KMOV‘s report that he had a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser in 2015.
The station’s report, released after Mr Greitens gave his State of the State speech, said the woman’s ex-husband alleged the future governor had photographed her nude and threatened to publicise the images if she spoke about the affair.
The woman allegedly involved did not comment on the record to the station, which did not name her. But her ex-husband, who also was not named, provided an audio recording to KMOV in which the woman gives details about a sexual encounter she said she had had with Mr Greitens in March 2015 at his St Louis home. The woman did not know her then-husband was recording their conversation.
According to KMOV, the woman can be heard to say Mr Greitens blindfolded her. She continued: “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’.”
The alleged encounter came after Mr Greitens opened a committee to explore a bid for Missouri governor but before he officially announced his candidacy.
The Greitens’ statement said: ”A few years ago, before Eric was 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.”
Separately, late on Wednesday, Mr Greitens’ attorney Jim Bennett said, “There was no blackmail and that claim is false.”
Mr Greitens, a first-time candidate, rose to office in the same November 2016 election that brought President Donald Trump to power.
His campaign capitalised on his military service as a Navy SEAL, his work as founder of a veterans’ charity “and most importantly, a proud husband and father”.
He cast himself as an outsider going up against a career politician, the state’s Democratic attorney general. He is not up for re-election until 2020.
Mr Greitens has done nothing to hide his political ambitions, reserving the web address ericgreitensforpresident.com years ago.
The ex-husband told KMOV that law enforcement had been in touch and Al Watkins, an attorney for the ex-husband, backed up his client’s claim.
“My knowledge and my experience leads me to believe that at least, there is an elevated degree of interest in what is going on,” Mr Watkins said.
But Mr Bennett denied outright that authorities were involved.
“The claim that this nearly three-year-old story has generated or should generate law enforcement interest is completely false,” he said.