(JTA) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted to having an extramarital affair, but denied that he blackmailed the woman to keep it under wraps.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL whose seven military awards include the Bronze Star, became the first Jewish governor of Missouri when he was elected in November 2016.
The affair, which happened in March 2015, before Greitens became governor, was first reported by St. Louis TV station KMOV.
The governor admitted to the affair late Wednesday night, just hours after delivering his second “State of the State” speech.
The ex-husband of the woman with whom Greitens had the affair provided a secretly recorded tape of her confession to him, which included details of their first encounter. The woman, who met Greitens when she cut his hair, said that Greitens took a photo of her in a compromising position to use if she ever came forward about the affair.
The couple began divorce proceedings in March of 2016. By the November election, the man took to social media, to call Greitens a “homewrecker,” according to KMOV.
The man said he came forward because he has been contacted numerous times by law enforcement authorities and the media and he wanted to get out in front of a story that he knew would become public.
Greitens and his wife, Sheena, issued a statement on Wednesday night.
“A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. 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. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive – but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers,” the statement said.
An additional statement from Sheena Greitens said: “We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.”
Greitens later addressed the subject of blackmail in a statement sent by his attorney to BuzzFeed News.
“The claim that this nearly three-year-old story has generated or should generate law enforcement interest is completely false. There was no blackmail and that claim is false. This personal matter has been addressed by the Governor and Mrs. Greitens privately years ago when it happened. The outrageous claims of improper conduct regarding these almost three-year-ago events are false,” the statement issued after Greitens had seen the TV report said.
During Greitens’ run for office the Republican candidate touted himself as a family man. During his campaign announcement, he stated: “I’m Eric Greitens, I’m a Navy SEAL, native Missourian and most importantly, a proud husband and father.”