NEW YORK (Sep. 28)
The boxing match between former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey and his alleged gay Israeli lover has gone another round. Golan Cipel has come out swinging after McGreevey gave his side of their alleged sexual relationship in his new memoir, “The Confession.”
“All of the encounters are twisted,” said Cipel, who maintains that he’s not gay and that McGreevey sexually assaulted him. “He took the cases I have against him and completely twisted and changed the facts.”
The counterpunching between the two men is the latest twist in a public battle that has involved a lawsuit and threats — and which brought McGreevey down in 2004 when, under intense public scrutiny, he publicly admitted that he was gay.
McGreevey’s book details the rise and fall of a modern American politician, one who became governor of New Jersey in his 40s, only to resign two years later mired in scandal.
In his mea culpa, McGreevey explains that he knew since his childhood that he had gay leanings, but he hid them early on because of his Irish Catholic upbringing — and later because of his belief that admitting them would harm his political career.
He describes occasional, furtive gay experiences, including trysts outside the 6th and I Historic Synagogue in Washington when he was a law student at Georgetown University in the late 1970s.
McGreevey was able to keep those trysts private, but his supposed relationship with Cipel became much more public.
Soon after McGreevey’s August 2004 speech, Cipel, then 35, returned to Israel.
“I wanted to be with my family. My parents’ apartment was surrounded by journalists. I went back to Israel to manage my situation,” he told JTA in a phone interview.
He was devastated emotionally.
“It was a very difficult time,” he said.
Cipel had difficulty finding work at first, but in the two years since, he says he has been able to put his life back together.
Reticent to talk about his private life, Cipel said he lives on his own and works as a consultant, but did not elaborate. He also said he’s not married or dating anyone.
“I’m just waiting to find the right one,” he said.
McGreevey, who was married at the time but has since divorced and has a male partner, writes that he and Cipel had the kind of chemistry that so many singles yearn for.
McGreevey says he met Cipel in Israel in 2000 when he was mayor of Woodbridge, N.J., during a mission sponsored by New Jersey’s MetroWest Federation. He claims the two had an immediate bond.
“I can’t say I ever had a more electrifying first meeting,” he writes.
McGreevey invited Cipel, who had a knowledge of the U.S. Jewish community from his time as a staffer in New York’s Israeli Consulate in the mid-1990s, to work on his gubernatorial campaign.
Soon after taking took office in 2002, McGreevey gave Cipel a job. The media portrayed Cipel as an unqualified “security czar,” implying that New Jersey needed someone with more experience on that matter in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Articles also detailed that Cipel’s qualifications for any type of security position were exaggerated.
Both men say that while Cipel gave advice on security to McGreevey, his duties were far more varied.
Cipel resigned his position with the McGreevey government in August 2002, but continued to serve as an unofficial liaison to the Jewish community.
Beyond that, the two men seemingly don’t agree on anything.
McGreevey, who now works for a New Jersey law firm, describes sexual encounters with Cipel, including one in McGreevey’s family’s condominium while his second wife was in the hospital with their newborn child.
Cipel has maintained that the depictions are untrue. He says McGreevey wrestled him onto a bed on one occasion and masturbated in front of him on others, without his consent.
But he never filed a threatened lawsuit against the former governor, on the advice of friends and family, he said.
Cipel recently established a Web site, cipelgolan.com, to make his case.
“The reason I’m speaking now is because he’s not gone,” he said, “and now I have to confront him and tell the truth.”
One thing the two men apparently share is a desire to disparage the other.
In his book, McGreevey describes Cipel as smart, but also as someone who wanted preferential treatment and had difficulty getting along with others in his administration.
For his part, Cipel calls McGreevey a “selfish person who doesn’t think about his family.”
And in a reference to the former governor’s scandal-ridden administration, he adds, “You may not believe me, but at least my record is clean. I never lied and I never did anything that can be perceived as a negative act.”