Missouri gov.’s scandal ensnares unwitting hairdresser
CHICAGO — She was a St. Louis hairdresser whose marriage was on the rocks. He was a handsome, educated and ambitious client who bedazzled her with talk of his time as a Navy SEAL, author and volunteer.
What began as a crush on future Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, the woman told lawmakers, led to a series of sexual encounters in 2015 in which he grabbed, slapped, shoved, humiliated and threatened her, sometimes leaving her crying and afraid. Greitens has repeatedly denied being violent or threatening and insisted the monthslong affair was consensual and a “personal mistake” made before his election. He has called the investigation by a legislative panel a “political witch hunt.”
The woman’s account was made public in a graphic report released Wednesday by a group of House members weighing whether to impeach Greitens. If accurate, her description of events shows her being threatened by one man — Greitens — and betrayed by another — her ex-husband, who gave a television station a secretly recorded conversation in which she described the first sexual encounter with Greitens.
She’s also been drawn unwittingly into an intensely political process that could invite attacks on her character and credibility. And the snowballing controversy has unfolded despite the fact that she has never been publicly identified, never went to police and never sought an investigation.
“I can’t help but feel sorry for her,” said Lisa Aronson Fontes, a senior lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an expert on sexual violence and coercive relationships. “The very least each of us would like to be able to do is to control intimate, personal and embarrassing information about ourselves.”
Greitens is scheduled to stand trial next month on a felony invasion-ofprivacy charge related to the woman’s claim that he took a photo of her partially nude body, then threatened to make it public if she disclosed their relationship.
She told the legislative panel that Greitens explained later that he planned to run for governor, and the photo was protection to ensure she did not speak about the encounter. She said he also told her he erased it.
Greitens, 44, became a rising star in the national Republican Party and a welcome partner for state GOP lawmakers after his election in 2016. He seemed to have his sights set on even higher office, having secured the web address EricGreitensforPresident. com years before running for governor.
The governor’s attorneys have asked for the case to be dismissed, claiming that prosecutors’ video of an interview with the woman backs up Greitens’ claim of consent. That recording was shared with the defense Wednesday night, after the release of the legislative report, which Greitens’ attorneys said amounted to prosecutorial perjury and misconduct.
Greitens refused to testify before the panel and has resisted calls from Democrats and Republicans to step down. He has not answered directly when asked if he took a photo. Lawmakers said they found the woman credible.