Allegations involving blackmail and revenge porn have put Missouri's governor in the headlines and in the hot seat this week. But who is Eric Greitens? The Navy SEAL-turned-self-help-author-turned-nonprofit-founder-turned-political newcomer took office last year, portraying himself as an outsider elected to do the people's work. Now, however, the governor may be at risk of losing his job after just one year in office as state lawmakers call for an investigation into the alleged blackmail.
Greitens, a former philanthropist and Navy SEAL, beat out Democrat Chris Koster in Missouri's 2016 governor's election and was sworn into office in January 2017. Greitens marketed himself as a "conservative outsider" throughout the election, according to the Washington Post. But much of Greitens' success came from how he characterized Missouri's state government while out on the campaign trail. Greitens repeatedly argued the state was being bogged down with "corrupt career politicians," "well-paid lobbyists," and "special interest insiders," the Kansas City Star reported. In his inaugural address he promised to fight for the change Missourians had been talking about for decades.
Although he's considered a political outsider, Greitens was reportedly driven to enter the fray and throw his hat in the race for governor after watching how former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, had responded to unrest in Ferguson in the fall of 2014. Greitens apparently wasn't impressed with Nixon's handling of the situation.
Greitens' resume is long: he's a former Navy SEAL, a former boxer, a Rhodes scholar, and the founder of The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization centered around helping post-9/11 veterans integrate back into their communities through service projects. He's published multiple books including a memoir, a self-help book, and a collection of "award-winning international humanitarian photography." Amazon.com describes his book Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life as "an inspiring meditation for the warrior in each of us."
He's has been named one of the 50 greatest leaders in the world by Fortune magazine and one of the 100 most influential people by Time. But Greitens came under heavy scrutiny earlier this week amid allegations he'd once blackmailed a woman to keep quiet after an alleged sexual encounter. A number of both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers called for a formal investigation into the matter. Local St. Louis broadcaster News4 reported Wednesday there was a recording in which a woman claimed Greitens used a nude photo to blackmail her after the two had allegedly had a consensual sexual encounter in 2015.
According to News4, the woman's ex-husband recorded a discussion he'd allegedly had with his now ex-wife about her first sexual encounter with Greitens. In the recording, the woman claims Greitens took a photograph of her while she was naked, bound, and blindfolded. Although Greitens has admitted to having an extramarital affair prior to his election, he denies the allegations of blackmail. During his campaign, Greitens, who has two children with wife Sheena, portrayed himself as a family man.
Greitens' political career may be in jeopardy now. In light of the reports, a number of Missouri state lawmakers have joined state Sen. Doug Libla in urging Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to launch a formal investigation into the allegations. For now, it's unclear whether or not Missouri's attorney general will launch a formal investigation into Greitens.
But St. Louis Magazine appears to have been eerily on point in a profile they ran back in 2016 when Greitens was still a candidate. "Now he's running for governor, and Missouri has to decide whether he's A. Superman, B. too good to be true and hiding some dark flaw no one can find, or C. a strategist whose entire life has been planned as a ramp to the U.S. presidency," the magazine wrote.