Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a Duke University graduate, admitted to having a months-long extramarital affair in 2015, when he was considering running for governor.
But his attorney denied allegations that Greitens attempted to blackmail the woman who had been his hairdresser to keep her quiet about their relationship and that on another occasion, he slapped her.
Greitens, 43, who was elected governor in 2016, admitted the affair following the release of a tape of the woman confessing to her then-husband.
In the tape secretly recorded by her ex-husband, the woman says the governor taped her hands to exercise equipment in the basement of his former St. Louis home, blindfolded her and took a nude photo in order to blackmail her. The names of the woman and her ex-husband were not released.
“You're never going to mention my name,” Greitens told the woman, according to her account on the recording. “Otherwise, this picture will be everywhere.”
The woman said that Greitens apologized later and told her he deleted the photo.
The ex-husband also allegedly told his attorney that Greitens slapped the woman during the affair. He claimed that Greitens became upset when the woman told him that she had sex with her ex-husband when they were trying to reconcile.
Greitens’ attorney, James Bennett, denied the blackmail allegations in a statement released Wednesday night.
“There was no ‘blackmail,’ and that claim is false,” Bennett said in the statement. “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 a lie.”
Bennett also said any allegation of violence is “completely false” and that Greitens had a consensual relationship with the woman.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced Thursday that she planned to launch a criminal investigation into the accusations.
“The serious allegations against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens are very troubling. After further consideration, I have decided to launch a formal investigation,” she said.
Greitens and his wife, Sheena, also released a statement Wednesday night.
“A few years ago, before Eric was elected governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage,” the statement said. “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.”
Sheena and Greitens were married in 2011 in Spokane, Wash. They have two children. Greitens was previously married, but divorced in 2003.
Greitens is a former Navy SEAL and the second youngest governor in the U.S. He was a Democrat until switching parties in 2015. He attended Duke on scholarship and then the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, where he earned his doctorate before joining the Navy.
Greitens graduated from Duke in 1996. He studied ethics, philosophy and public policy at Duke.
While at Duke, he took up boxing, and later he won a gold medal in the 1998 British Universities Sports Association’s national championships, according to Duke. While at Oxford, he volunteered as a documentary photographer and researcher in the Gaza Strip, Albania, Cambodia, Mexico, Bolivia and India.
Durng his Naval career, Greitens served four tours of duty (Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Southeast Asia) and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander. He holds a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other decorations. He founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit serving veterans, which he led until 2014.
Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013. Fortune Magazine named him one of the 50 greatest leaders in the world. He taught public service at the University of Missouri and was an adjunct professor of business ethics at Washington University in St. Louis.