In the week since allegations of blackmail engulfed his administration in scandal, Gov. Eric Greitens has struggled to keep out of the spotlight.
As rumors continue to swirl, and an increasing number of his fellow Republicans call on him to resign, the governor has held no public appearances and taken no questions from the media. Other than a written apology on Facebook, he’s relied on his attorney to speak on his behalf.
His office has worked to keep up the appearance of normalcy. It has released statements regarding rural broadband and reducing state regulations. The “principles” of the governor’s tax cut proposal were released Thursday, and he’s expected to provide lawmakers his recommendations for the state’s $27 billion budget on Monday.
Yet while the governor remains hunkered down in Missouri, first lady Sheena Greitens told CNN that she and the couple’s two sons are out of state on a “vacation that has been planned since last fall to spend time with family.”
“We’re not going to allow this situation to prevent our boys from spending wonderful time with their grandparents,” Sheena Greitens said in a statement to CNN. “I have repeatedly asked the media to respect my family’s privacy, and I’m disappointed that they continue to refuse to do so.”
Greitens, 43, has admitted that he cheated on his wife in 2015 during a time when he was laying the groundwork for his successful campaign for governor. He has vehemently denied allegations that he took a nude photograph of the woman he had the affair with while she was blindfolded and her hands were bound, then threatened to release it if she spoke about the affair.
The affair and allegations of blackmail emerged from a report by St. Louis television station KMOV, which interviewed the ex-husband of the woman with whom Greitens had an affair. He also gave the TV station an audio recording of the woman confessing.
The woman involved in the matter was recorded without her knowledge by her ex-husband and it was released to the media without her consent.
Five Republican lawmakers called for Greitens to resign on Tuesday, arguing that the scandal is interfering with the government’s ability to function.
On Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, vowed that the scandal will not negatively impact the legislature’s work.
“The ship of government is steady,” he told reporters. “We’ve got it under control.”
Richard said he spoke with Greitens shortly after the story emerged and again over the weekend. The governor had spent much of last week after the scandal broke reaching out to his cabinet, his donors and Republican lawmakers.
Richard declined to provide details of their conversation, but said he is not calling for the governor to resign or for a legislative investigation. Instead, he said he wanted to wait until the St. Louis prosecutor’s criminal investigation of the blackmail allegations runs its course before making any determination on the governor’s fate.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican, said he has also spoken with the governor.
“The call was personal in nature,” Kehoe said. “I would say it was humbling on his part. I thought it was sincere.”
Asked what the legislature needs from the governor at this point, Kehoe said, “We need him to sign the bills we send him.”
While Greitens has spent the last week grappling with the fallout from the allegation, one of his top staffers traveled to Florida to “party” with the president during the holiday weekend.
Lucinda Luetkemeyer, the governor’s counsel, posted a photo to her private Instagram account Saturday night of herself and three other women at party at Mar-a-Lago, a Florida resort owned by President Donald Trump.
“Party with POTUS,” she captioned the post.
The governor’s office would not make Luetkemeyer available for an interview about her trip to the president’s resort on the weekend following the scandal.
“The Governor did not travel to Florida during the weekend,” Parker Briden, the governor’s spokesman, said in an email. “Lucinda was at a private event this weekend and not traveling for official business. She did not meet with the President.”
Briden did not answer a question about whether any other members of the governor’s staff were at Mar-a-Lago during the holiday weekend.
Luetkemeyer, the governor’s taxpayer-paid attorney, became the subject of controversy this week after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that she had contacted the attorney representing the ex-husband of the woman the governor allegedly blackmailed prior to the story airing on KMOV-TV in St. Louis.