Gov. Eric Greitens has admitted he had an extramarital affair in 2015, during a time when he was exploring a campaign for governor.
But he is denying allegations that he tried to blackmail the woman into silence.
The admission was inspired by a report by St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV. The report featured an interview with the ex-husband of Greitens’ mistress, who had secretly recorded his then-wife confessing the affair to him before they divorced in 2016.
He turned the tape over to the TV station.
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In the audio recording she says the governor taped her hands to a piece of exercise equipment in the basement of his former home in St. Louis, blindfolded her and took a nude photo in order to blackmail her.
She said Greitens later apologized and told her he had deleted the photo.
The identity of the ex-husband and woman were not revealed by the station. The woman declined comment.
The Greitens’ attorney, James Bennett, released a statement late Wednesday night denying the blackmail allegations.
“There was no ‘blackmail,’ and that claim is false,” Bennet said. “This personal matter has been addressed by the governor and Mrs. Greitens privately years ago when it happened. The outrageous claims of improper conduct regarding these almost three-year-ago events are a lie.”
Greitens and his wife, Sheena, released a joint statement earlier Wednesday night.
“A few years ago, before Eric was elected governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage,” the statement said. “This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately. While we never would have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive – but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers.”
Sheena Greitens released a separate statement of her own, saying she and her husband have a “loving marriage and an awesome family. Anything beyond that is between us and God. We want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.”
The revelations came just hours after the governor delivered his annual State of the State address.
Rumors had been swirling all day leading up to the story’s publication, with lawmakers, lobbyists and staff anticipating a story about the governor’s past could turn up at any moment.
The Star also came into possession of a transcript of the woman’s confession late Tuesday night. Because the woman in question declined to be interviewed and wanted no part in the story, the decision was made not to publish the revelations.
The story was published only after the governor released a public statement about the affair.
Rep. Gina Mitten, a St. Louis Democrat, called the allegations “deeply troubling.”
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Sheena Greitens and her young children,” she said.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican, tweeted his response to the report: “Stick a fork in him.”
Greitens was married once before, but it ended in divorce in 2003. He and Sheena Greitens were married in 2011 and have two young sons.
He was elected governor in 2016.