Jefferson City has been rocked by a story broadcast Wednesday night by a St. Louis TV station in which Gov. Eric Greitens was accused of having an affair with a married woman prior to his election as governor.
Further accusations made by the woman’s ex-husband that Greitens took a nude photo of the bound and blindfolded woman, and reportedly threatened to release the photo if she ever spoke publicly of their relationship, has both Republican and Democratic state legislators questioning if the first-term Republican governor will be able to survive the scandal.
Soon after the story hit the airwaves, Greitens and his wife, Sheena, released a joint statement in which the couple confirmed the extra-marital affair, but said they worked through the issue together and had “emerged stronger.”
Greitens’ attorney also released a statement declaring that the governor categorically denied the bondage and blackmail allegations.
While there were a few immediate calls by members of both parties for Greitens to resign, most legislators expressed promises of prayers and chose to adopt more of a “wait and see” approach.
Then there were state senators Gary Romine, R-Farmington, and Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, who on Thursday released a joint letter they’d written to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley calling on the Republican to mount an investigation into the allegations surrounding the governor’s affair and asking their fellow colleagues to sign it.
“I think it’s a major cloud over our capitol and the legislative system right now,” Romine said. “We need to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and that’s why Sen. Libla and I drafted the letter to the Attorney General’s Office asking him for an expeditious investigation into these allegations, so that we can separate fact from fiction — from rumors and gossip to what’s reality. If we don’t, it’s going to hang over our state for a long time and we just can’t afford that. We’ve got business we need to conduct. I want to get it dealt with as quickly as possible.”
Three local state representatives also gave their take on the accusations made against Greitens.
“I was very disappointed when the story broke,” said Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre. “I’m waiting to see what all comes out of this situation. At this point, before you pass total judgment, I think you need to wait, sit back and see what comes out of the investigation that’s taking place. I’m praying for both families and hoping that we get news that we did get told everything about it.”
Rep. Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto, also emphasized the importance of a thorough investigation of the matter.
“I think there definitely needs to be an investigation,” she said. “If we don’t get to the bottom of the situation, then we’re not going to be able to move forward as a legislature. We don’t know all the facts. We only know what everybody else has read in the newspaper, so there just has to be an investigation.
“We need to keep all families involved in this situation in all our prayers and wait for the outcome. That’s all we can do. I don’t know if it’s going to take two weeks, six weeks or three months. I don’t know. But it’s definitely going to have an effect on our session, I believe.”
Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, admitted that he found some of the accusations “very disturbing,” but was willing to give Greitens the benefit of the doubt for now.
“I talked to [Gov. Greitens] by phone last night,” he said. “If the story is in fact that he had an affair a couple of years ago before he got in office and that his wife’s aware of it and they’ve dealt with it and they’re moving on, that’s one thing.
“If it becomes more than that, then we’ll have to deal with it. I just hope that everybody keeps both families in their prayers. It’s got to be a very difficult time.
“The fact that the ex-husband has been shopping this around for a year — even the Post-Dispatch wouldn’t take it up — so, there’s nothing that’s been able to collaborate his statements. He’s obviously angry.
“As far as a threat or bribes, if that’s proven then [Greitens] needs to do the right thing. But if it’s just what he’s admitted to, he needs to deal with his wife and his god. I’m not going to throw stones.”