Tabloid Trash and Truth

JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIAL

In what was clearly designed to be a pre-emptive strike against a devastating enemy, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens went before the media last week just before a House committee released its investigation report (http://bit.ly/Greitens-report) into claims against him. His mission failed, big time.

The desperate, embattled governor labeled the allegations against him by his former lover as “tabloid trash” and the legislative probe into his seamy behavior a “political witch hunt.” But just as he declined to testify before the committee — which is his right — he would not take any questions that could have helped to specify what parts of the report he considers to be untrue.

Given the disturbing contents of the report — which by now, everyone who is interested has heard or read about — Greitens’ reaction is hardly a surprise. Neither, though, is the strong and nearly unanimous response of those who quickly gave their verdict: The first-term governor should resign, now. We agree.

The House investigation is separate from Greitens’ criminal trial, which is set to begin on May 14. He is charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a photo of his lover without her consent, while she was partially nude. He has vigorously contested the charge but has never definitively responded to one simple question: Did he take the photo or didn’t he?

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Based on the testimony of the woman — testimony that that House committee termed “credible” — taking the photo wasn’t the only behavior by Greitens against the woman that was done without her consent. The lurid details include forced sexual activity that she engaged in under duress and in fear for her safety. His reported threatening comments against her may not be part of the criminal charge against him, but they speak volumes about his attitude toward women and toward sexual activity. He clearly isn’t the family-friendly guy his campaign portrayed.

The latest revelations fueled the strong denunciations of Greitens from politicians on both sides of the political aisle. House Speaker Todd Richardson called the report “beyond disturbing.” Attorney General Josh Hawley, who aims to unseat U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in the fall, spoke of “shocking, substantial and corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by the governor” that should lead to his immediate resignation.

Hawley, who had been among Greitens’s strong supporters in the campaign said to the St. Louis Business Journal as the Light goest to press:  “We’ve found potential criminal wrongdoing by Gov. Eric Greitens.”  It is almost impossible to imagine a  scenario as to how Greitens will dig out of the ever-growing hole he has dug for himself—regardless of the outcome of his upcoming trial.

How could those strong but accurate words from two of Missouri’s top Republicans be considered a political witch hunt? That description, of course, evokes strong echoes of the response to another high-profile investigation by another Republican chief executive, the man in Washington who insists the probe into his conduct is unjustified. In both cases, the arguments by neophyte politicians who are straining to portray themselves as victims sound increasingly hollow. 

The high hopes that Missourians had when the state’s first Jewish governor took over last year have faded fast. Though the regular legislative session is scheduled to end on May 18, just after Greitens’ trial is scheduled to begin, the process to convene a special session to consider impeachment proceedings is already underway.

And no one, least of all the governor, should be surprised that when he needed support the most, politicians of both parties were all too eager to throw him overboard. His go-it-alone disdain for the political process and the norms of governing have left him isolated, with few people who aren’t beholden to him willing to have his back. He’s not a Navy SEAL anymore.

The details in the House report show clearly that Greitens’ behavior was far from the mere “personal mistake” that he has invoked repeatedly to try to dismiss his actions. He cannot justify his verbal attacks against the woman, trying to shift the blame away from where it really belongs. The report is hardly “one-sided tabloid trash gossip.”

And the victims in this whole sad mess include more than the woman involved. Missourians who expect the governor to live up to decent standards of behavior should be disappointed. And everyone who expects the governor to be able to devote all of his energies to making Missouri a better place to live has been victimized.

The whole sorry story may be fit for a tabloid, but it’s not trash. We’ve said before that given the criminal case, plus additional investigations into his secretive behavior and other questionable strategies, Greitens couldn’t possibly give his job the attention it needs and should step aside, temporarily if not permanently. The damning House report only reinforces that conclusion. The governor has no moral or ethical credibility left. The sooner Greitens goes, the sooner the state can begin a much-needed process of healing.