Key figures in the Greitens saga
For a few hours Wednesday morning, Missouri’s political world was buzzing over a report that former Gov. Eric Greitens was plotting his political comeback.
But by day’s end, the buzz turned to bust. The story was pulled offline with no explanation, and its author eventually admitted he’d been duped.
Greitens, a Republican, left office last June after an avalanche of scandals and criminal charges forced him to resign to avoid criminal prosecution and impeachment.
Almost from the moment he departed, rumors of Greitens’ impending return to politics have swirled.
CityScene STL — a news site focused on real estate development in the St. Louis region — wrote Wednesday morning that seven anonymous sources close to the former governor confirmed he was jumping into the 2020 Republican primary to challenge the man who replaced him, Gov. Mike Parson.
“Each source, of which there are seven, have stated Greitens plans to run on a scorched Earth platform and one that is un-apologetically conservative,” wrote Chris Stritzel, CityScene STL’s founder. He later wrote that three of his sources said Greitens would announce his candidacy this summer, while two said it would be this fall.
Greitens could not be reached by The Star for comment, but a handful of Greitens’ former political allies and donors contacted by The Star disputed Stritzel’s reporting.
Just a few hours after it first published, Stritzel’s scoop began to unravel.
In a series of emails to The Star Wednesday night, Stritzel said his story was based on five sources who reached out to him personally but turned out to be fake.
Stritzel says he was contacted unsolicited via email by five people claiming to be conservative radio hosts Pete Mundo, Dave Glover and Jamie Allman; former state Rep. Marsha Haefner and current state Rep. Nick Schroer.
He pulled the story down as he began to realize none of the sources were actually who they claimed to be.
“So the five sources are fake but at the time, I didn’t know that,” Stritzel said. “As for who they really are, I’m not sure, but two seemed to be written by the same person while the others wrote like individuals.”
Schroer said Thursday he had never heard of CityScene STL until someone forwarded him the story on Greitens. He said he never contacted Stritzel, has no way of contacting Greitens and has no insight into the former governor’s future plans.
Stritzel’s two other sources, whom he describes as “friends of Greitens for sometime,” were “iffy on wanting (the story) to stay out.”
“It was also removed because five sources, the ones who lied and are not credible, admitted that they were coordinating their claims in the hope of destroying my credibility and wanting to stir the pot,” he said, “but the other two were clear and truthful.”
The story also references “longtime Greitens friend” Jeff Smith, a former Democratic state senator from St. Louis who tweeted last year about a rumor that Greitens met with a political donor about the possibility of a 2020 campaign.
Asked about the story Thursday, Smith replied: “Can I be quoted LOL-ing?”
“We’ve known each other for over 30 years but I wouldn’t say we’ve been friends,” Smith said. “He went to Duke, for Pete’s sake.”
Smith then turned serious and noted that he had never heard of the website, never heard of the story’s author and had not spoken with Greitens for a decade, “back when the former governor was a Democrat.”
Thursday afternoon, Stritzel tweeted that he “was duped into writing something almost entirely false. It was my fault for not checking the sources, so I pulled the story down.”
“From the get go, I thought it was odd that I was contacted by the people named but I went with it,” Stritzel tweeted. “I’ll continue doing what I do writing and checking in on developments in St. Louis. It’s my specialty. I’ll leave politics up to the pros.”