RJC: Despite affair, Gov. Greitens still ‘family’

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 last week to the recent infidelity and blackmail allegations against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens by stating that the Jewish Republican “is family.”

The former Navy SEAL, who took office a year ago and has been thought to have presidential ambitions, admitted Jan. 10 — 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 undressed. She also said during the taped conversation that Greitens threatened to release the photo if she went public about the affair.

A lawyer for Greitens denied the blackmail allegations. Greitens and his wife, Sheena, issued a statement describing it as a “deeply personal mistake” and wrote that “with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger.” Greitens also asked for the public’s forgiveness.

His election as the first Jewish governor of Missouri had united some Jewish Republicans and Democrats who otherwise disagree, particularly after Greitens organized a “clean-up” of the Jewish cemetery in University City following an act of vandalism.

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“I am very hopeful that those core [Jewish] values that we share will lead his service as governor of our state and that, as he said to me on the phone, his door will be open,” State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said after his inauguration.

But that goodwill has since evaporated. 

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, stated in an email.

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.

Schupp described the allegations as “very, very troubling.” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced last week that she would investigate the allegations.

“We want to make sure that the accusations are thoroughly investigated,” said Schupp, who has been attacked by the governor over her response to allegations of abuse and neglect at the St. Louis Veterans Home. Greitens replaced five members of the Missouri Veterans Commission and called for firing the executive director and the home’s administrator. Schupp wanted a more thorough review before making such personnel changes and linked Greitens’ efforts to his earlier firing of the Missouri education commissioner. 

Greitens’ response: “This is why people don’t trust liberal politicians. They defend big government, even when big government is indefensible.”

Greitens also called out U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for their responses to the allegations at the veterans’ home. (The executive director of the commission has since resigned and the director of the home was placed on leave.)

Meanwhile, Greitens has been criticized for a perceived lack of transparency. The Missouri Attorney General is investigating the Greitens administration’s use of an app that automatically deletes text messages 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.

Some political analysts have said Greitens’ public attacks on politicians in both parties will hurt his chances of recovering from the infidelity and blackmail allegations. 

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.”

Gerry Greiman, Jewish Federation of St. Louis president, disagrees that the scandal will hurt the public image of the Jewish community. He is a Democrat and said he was “proud and happy that somebody Jewish can get elected governor in this country, especially given the history of anti-Semitism.”

Since then, he has been disappointed by Greitens’ policies.

As to how the Jewish community should treat Greitens because of the scandal, Greiman said, “Eric Greitens being Jewish doesn’t increase the responsibility for any misconduct nor do I think him being Jewish gives him any sort of a free pass.”

“From a political standpoint, I don’t know that having an affair is necessarily disqualifying but some of the other allegations, if they are true, are more troubling — particularly the alleged blackmail,” Greiman said.

He and Schupp both are looking to the investigation for answers.

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