Republican Jewish Coalition calls Greitens ‘family’ despite extramarital affair

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens organized a clean-up event at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City following vandalism in 2017.

By Eric Berger, staff writer

The Republican Jewish Coalition responded to the recent infidelity and blackmail allegations against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens by saying the Jewish Republican “is family.”

The former Navy SEAL who took office a year ago and has been thought to have presidential ambitions admitted Wednesday night — just hours after his State of the State address — to having an affair in 2015.

The ex-husband of the woman who Greitens allegedly had an affair with secretly recorded a conversation in which the woman tells him that Greitens took a photo of her tied up and partly underdressed. She also said during the taped conversation that Greitens threatened to release the photo if she went public about the affair.

The couple began divorce proceedings in March 2016. By the November election that year, the estranged husband took to social media to call Greitens a “homewrecker,” according to KMOV (Channel 4), which first reported the story Wednesday.

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A lawyer for Greitens denied the blackmail allegations.

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.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition, a national political lobbying group, has a number of board members who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Greitens’ campaign. The coalition, founded by Sheldon Adelson, also sponsored the governor’s November 2017 trip to Israel on a trade mission.

“Eric is family to the RJC and as such our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time,” Matt Brooks, executive director of the organization, said.

Greitens, the first Jewish governor of Missouri, is slated to speak at the RJC’s annual convention next month in Las Vegas. Other scheduled speakers include Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director.

As to whether Greitens will still attend the convention or speak, “that is a decision that he and his wife will have to make in the coming weeks as they figure out how best to move forward,” Brooks said. Greitens’ press secretary did not respond to a request for comment.

State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, described the allegations as “very, very troubling.”

“We want to make sure that the accusations are thoroughly investigated,” said Schupp. “We need to restore the public trust to our state’s highest office.”

The blackmail allegations are the latest news to spark criticism about Greitens’ perceived secrecy. The Missouri Attorney General is investigating the Greitens administration’s use of an app that automatically deletes text messages immediately after they have been read. His campaign also received a $1.97 million donation through a nonprofit and a super PAC, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. He has not disclosed the origin of the donor and critics say passing it through the two organizations was an effort to hide its source.

On Greitens, Schupp, who is also Jewish, said, “I think unfortunately because he is Jewish, this is going to reflect poorly on the Jewish people, and I hope people understand that the governor does not represent all Jewish people. The allegations do not represent the core values of someone who is Jewish.”

She also said, “as hard it is not just to want to drop in and say, ‘Throw him out.’ I don’t want to do that. I believe in due process.”

Information from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was used in this report.