Allegations of extramarital affair and blackmail derail State of the State address

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – One year after being sworn into office, and everyone knew that this week would be a busy week for the Governor’s Office. Few outside of the State Capitol, however, could have predicted what this week resulted in.

Coming into the week, Governor Eric Greitens was preparing for his second State of the State address. He had successfully managed to bring about some of the changes promised on the campaign trail, most notably leading the legislature to pass right-to-work, tort reform, and the Blue Alert measures.

State of the State, one year later: How did Greitens fare on delivering his promises?

The Governor’s week began with a flurry of support as he delivered a strong response to the EPA concerning a proposed rule, with a number of agricultural groups praising him.

Greitens praised for comments against EPA’s proposed rule

He followed that with a joint announcement from the legislative budget leaders, announced the state’s Consenus Revenue Estimate.

Greitens and budget leaders announce Consensus Revenue Estimate for Fiscal Year 2019

And when Wednesday came around, the Governor prepared for the big moment: the State of the State address.

Taking the podium at 7 p.m. that night, the Governor outlined a number of priorities for the newly-started legislative session, in what is speculated to be the shortest State of the State speech in the state’s history, including tax reform, ethics reform, job creation, and cutting regulations.

State of the State 2018: Governor outlines priorities, leaves out the budget

Read the full speech here.

But just hours after delivering his second State of the State address, a report from KMOV in St. Louis completely changed the narrative of the night when they aired a story detailing allegations of an extramarital affair and blackmail by the Governor before he took office.

The news quickly spread, and since then, it has taken complete control of the news cycle. The next morning, the legislature spent little time on legislation, with the House quickly gaveling in and out. The Senate, however, spoke on the issue, with two senators urging the Attorney General to investigate the matter.

Libla, Romine lead the Senate in call for Attorney General to investigate allegations against Greitens

Throughout the day, a number of legislators called on the Governor to be truthful and straightforward in response to the allegations, with several saying that, if the allegations were proven to be true, he should step down.

At least one location officially canceled their hosting of the Governor for a tax reform tour stop next week, but a couple locations are reportedly not considering cancelation.

After news of affair and alleged blackmail, gubernatorial tour spot cancels

Greitens’ attorney, James T. Bennett responded to the allegations later in the day.

“We have been asked repeatedly by reputable news outlets why we believe this nearly three-year-old news story is coming out now. The latest reporting has finally disclosed that the reporting was being driven by a “source” who is the former Democrat state party chairman and who apparently has not spoken to the person in question. This goes a long way to explaining what is going on – this is a political hit piece.

“This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake. Eric and Sheena have worked through those issues long ago and I think that Sheena put it best: ‘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.’ Now we know who has been peddling that gossip.”

The attorney’s comments led to a response from the former Democratic state party chairman.

Greitens’ attorney calls story a ‘political hit piece,’ Temple responds

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.