JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens acknowledged Wednesday night that he's been "unfaithful" in his marriage but denied allegations that he blackmailed the woman to stay quiet. On Thursday, some groups and individuals began calling for Greitens' resignation.
The Republican governor and his wife released a statement late Wednesday after the St. Louis television station KMOV reported he had a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser in 2015.
The station's report, released after Greitens gave his State of the State address, said the woman's ex-husband alleged Greitens photographed her nude and threatened to publicize the images if she spoke about the affair. Greitens' attorney denied these allegations.
"The governor denies that the picture was taken and denies stating the words attributed to him by her on the recording," Greitens' attorney Jim Bennett said in a statement Thursday.
Bennett said allegations of violence are false, and the relationship was consensual.
"This was a consensual relationship that lasted multiple months and was years ago before Eric was elected Governor," Bennett said.
Greitens' attorney said Thursday that they believe the report was the result of a "political hit piece."
"The latest reporting has finally disclosed that the reporting was being driven by a 'source' who is the former Democrat state party chairman and who apparently has not spoken to the person in question," Bennett said. "This goes a long way to explaining what is going on. It's become clear this is a political hit piece. This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake."
After the report of the affair was published, several groups and individuals began calling for Greitens to resign.
State Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, District 22 said Thursday:
“As the co-founder of GYRL (Giving Yourself Real Love) and someone who has worked with victims of sexual assault for the past five years, I take these allegations very seriously. I respect the governor’s right to privacy, however, the reports against him regarding sexual assault and blackmail cannot be shielded as a family matter because blackmail is a felony. Due to the serious nature of these accusations, I believe Eric Greitens cannot effectively function as governor and I strongly urge him to resign.”
From Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of the women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet:
“The allegations of sexual exploitation and blackmail against Governor Greitens are deeply disturbing and disgusting. Sexual exploitation and blackmail are crimes—plain and simple—and are unacceptable in any sphere of society, especially from our elected officials. The people of Missouri deserve better from their Governor. Eric Greitens should resign immediately.”
But Bennett said the governor will not resign.
"The governor is not resigning and his plans are to continue to serve the people of Missouri," Bennett said Thursday.
When asked if the Attorney General's Office would open a probe into the allegations, AGO Deputy Chief of Staff Loree Anne Paradise released the following statement:
“Under Missouri law, jurisdiction over alleged criminal conduct of this nature rests with the Prosecuting Attorney in the place where the conduct occurred. If the Prosecuting Attorney has a legal conflict or lacks the resources to pursue an investigation, he or she may seek assistance from the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Attorney General’s Office.”
In the story that aired on KMOV-TV in St. Louis, the woman's ex-husband claimed Greitens blindfolded the woman, led her downstairs and then took a picture of her, which the ex-husband says he then used for blackmail.
The identities of the woman and ex-husband were not released. The woman allegedly involved did not comment on the record to the station, but her ex-husband provided an audio recording he made to KMOV in which a woman gives details about a sexual encounter. The ex-husband claimed she was talking about herself and Greitens, when she went to the Greitens' St. Louis home in March 2015. The woman did not know her then-husband was recording their conversation.
Greitens, a first-time candidate, rose to office in the same November 2016 election that brought President Donald Trump to power. His campaign capitalized on his military service as a Navy SEAL, his work as founder of a veterans' charity "and most importantly, a proud husband and father." The Greitens married in 2011 and have two young sons.
"A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage," the statement from Greitens and his wife, Sheena, said. "This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately."
In the recording aired by KMOV, the woman describes that he (allegedly Greitens) invited her downstairs at his home because he wanted to show her "how to do a proper pull-up."
She says: "I knew he was being sexual and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don't what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me."
She says she later realized he took a photo of her.