WASHINGTON — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, the first post-Sept. 11 war veteran to serve as a state’s top executive, on Wednesday admitted to an extramarital affair before he took office last year but denied allegations he also blackmailed the woman with non-consensual nude pictures in an effort to ensure her silence.
The Republican governor and his wife, Sheena, released a statement Wednesday night. It came after television station KMOV reported that Greitens had a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser in 2015.
“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.”
Greitens’ military service was a prominent feature of his gubernatorial campaign. He deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
After leaving the service, he founded the veterans advocacy group The Mission Continues, where he served as CEO for six years.
On Wednesday, the St. Louis station reported that the woman’s ex-husband alleged Greitens photographed her nude and threatened to publicize the images if she spoke about the affair.
The woman allegedly involved did not comment on the record to the station, which released its report late Wednesday after Greitens gave his State of the State speech. But her ex-husband provided a recording of her detailing a sexual encounter with Greitens and saying Greitens told her the photos would be released if she exposed the affair. She did not know she was being recorded.
The alleged March 2015 encounter came after Greitens opened a committee to explore a bid for Missouri governor but before he officially announced his candidacy. She says on the tape that he 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.
“I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said: `You’re never going to mention my name.‘”
Greitens’ statement didn’t address the affair specifically or the allegations, but in a separate statement Greitens’ attorney, Jim Bennett, said, “There was no blackmail and that claim is false.”
The Greitens married in 2011 and have two young sons.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.