Missouri’s Republican governor is the latest politician to star in his own drama: Fifty Shades of Greitens – a tawdry tale of lust, power and betrayal that has consumed state politics and led to bipartisan calls for his resignation.
Only minutes after delivering his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Eric Greitens was hit with an exposé about an extramarital affair he had in 2015.
The salacious report aired on St. Louis’ KMOV-TV and included an audio recording of a conversation between a woman and her then-husband – recorded secretly by the husband – in which she admits to having an affair with Greitens.
While the governor is now rejecting calls to resign, the details of that call continue to leak across the pages of Missouri newspapers, keeping the scandal front-and-center for the state’s most powerful official.
In the tape, the woman claims the governor asked her to “come downstairs” at his home where he would show her “how to do a proper pull-up.”
The woman says he then taped her hands, blindfolded her, took a partially nude picture of her and then warned her to stay quiet about the sexual encounter.
“You’re never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures everywhere,” Greitens allegedly said.
The accusations get worse.
An attorney for the ex-husband claims his client told him that the governor also slapped the woman.
“Absolutely not,” Greitens countered, responding to accusations he hit her.
After news of the affair first broke, Greitens kept a low profile, likely hoping the drama would die down.
Greitens, who pitched himself as a wholesome family man and father during his gubernatorial campaign, eventually admitted to having a “consensual relationship” with the woman during an Associated Press interview.
“The mistake I made was that I was engaged in a consensual relationship with a woman who was not my wife,” the governor said. “That is a mistake for which I am very sorry.”
Greitens said he’s had no other romantic or sexual relationships and has denied other deviant behavior, as well as any attempt at blackmail.
“There was no blackmail, there was no violence, there was no threat of violence, there was no threat of blackmail, there was no threat of using a photograph for blackmail,” he said. “All of those things are false.”
Despite the denials, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced her office will launch a formal investigation into the blackmail allegations.
“The serious allegations against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens are very troubling,” Gardner said in a statement. “After further consideration, I have decided to launch a formal investigation into the alleged actions of Governor Greitens.”
She added that it is “essential’ for Missourians to “have confidence in their leaders” and said her office “will hold public officials accountable in the same manner as any other resident of our city.”
As that investigation looms, Greitens is also facing mounting pressure from Republican and Democratic lawmakers to step down.
GOP House members Kathie Conway, Marsha Haefner and Nate Walker released statements saying Greitens should consider stepping aside. Missouri GOP Sen. Rob Schaaf also gave a speech on the Senate floor, calling for Greitens to resign.
“When you ran for office, you promised that you would be a governor known for ethics and transparency,” Schaaf said, directing his comments as if the governor was in the room listening. “Instead, you have defined yourself through scandal and covering things up.”
Schaaf said: “So governor, I’m asking you: please resign.”
But the former Navy SEAL-turned-politician said he’s not going anywhere.
“I’m staying, I’m staying,” he told the AP, adding that his relationship with his wife, staff and supporters is “strong.”
Greitens said his wife Sheena has forgiven him.
Previously a Democrat, Greitens ran for governor as a Republican, campaigning on a platform that focused on ethics reform. Since then, he has been criticized for his campaign’s refusal to disclose dark money donors among other things.