Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday sidestepped one question asked repeatedly during a rare news conference: Did he take a compromising photo of a woman with whom he had had an affair?
The question came in various forms from various news outlets. After initially addressing the affair, he attempted to steer the reporters back to the state’s $28.7 billion budget blueprint, the planned topic of the day.
The question stems from Greitens’ admission this month that he had an extramarital affair in 2015. A related allegation is that he took a compromising photograph of the woman and threatened its release if she spoke of their relations.
“There was no blackmail,” said Greitens, a Republican. “There was no violence. There was no photograph for blackmail. There was no threat of using a photograph for blackmail.”
Greitens also did not directly answer a similar question about taking such a photo during an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.
Greitens, at the news conference, said that he made a “personal mistake for which I take full responsibility.” He also said he worked through the issue privately with his wife, Sheena Greitens.
“We also appreciate those who understand that this is a private issue,” Greitens added, “that Sheena and I dealt with years ago that’s now been dragged into the public light.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers have called on the governor to resign since he admitted to the affair. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner has launched a criminal investigation into his behavior during the affair.
Greitens also faces an inquiry from Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office about the governor and his staff’s reported use of a cellphone app called Confide, which deletes text messages after they’ve been read.
When asked if he or his staff still uses the app, Greitens did not directly answer the question.
“We’re here to talk about the budget,” Greitens said, adding that his administration does follow the state’s record retention laws and is complying with Hawley’s inquiry.
In a statement this month, Loree Anne Paradise, Hawley’s deputy chief of staff, suggested the governor’s office was not complying with Hawley’s probe, which the attorney general, a Republican, launched in December.
“We hope that we will soon get cooperation from the Governor’s office,” Paradise said in an email.
Hawley, in his own news conference Monday, released few details on the Confide probe — as well as an ongoing look into state Auditor Nicole Galloway’s compliance with the Sunshine Law — except to say that the inquiries were ongoing and that he would make known if either office would not comply with his office’s requests.
Meanwhile, Hawley pressed the Legislature to beef up the state’s laws in this realm. He said he wanted lawmakers to give the attorney general’s office subpoena power on records-related matters. He also wants to create penalties for violating the state’s record retention laws.
Hawley also wants lawmakers to establish a “transparency division” within his office to preempt any conflict-of-interest questions when the attorney general investigates other state officials’ compliance with open records laws.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
An “online exclusive” is an article or story that does not run in the print edition of the Houston Herald. Typically 2-3 are posted online every Wednesday morning. It’s another feature designed for users who purchase full web access from the Herald.