Embattled Governor Eric Greitens repeatedly labelled the Missouri House Investigative Committee report into allegations against him a “witch hunt” on Wednesday.
But not only are Missouri legislators are standing behind the report, they are also clearly troubled by the story it tells. Was Greiten’s 2015 affair with his St Louis hairdresser consensual? If her testimony is to be believed, it may not have been.
“In 33 days, this witch hunt will come to an end”
In a brief statement made to reporters on Wednesday just before the Missouri House Investigative Committee report was published, he slammed lawmakers for not waiting until the conclusion of his May trial for felony invasion of privacy before going public with their conclusions.
“In just 33 days, a court of law and a jury of my peers will let every person in Missouri know the truth and prove my innocence,” he told reporters. “In just 33 days this witch hunt will come to an end.”
By using a phrase recently favored by fellow-Republican-adulterer Donald Trump, Gov Greitens might be hoping for some of the President’s luck in riding out allegations of sexual misconduct. So far it does not seem to be working.
Greitens carefully described the affair at the heart of the scandal in terms that were highly favorable to him (considering the situation) but would later be largely contradicted by the Missouri House Investigative Committee report.
“Over three years ago I made a personal mistake,” he continued, “I engaged in a consensual relationship with a woman who is not my wife. This was a private mistake that had nothing to do with governing, and should not be about politics.”
Thanks to the report released later that day, the word “consensual” is now being called into question.
The Missouri House Investigative Committee report disagrees
Having excercized her right to remain anonymous, the woman at the center of the case has yet to speak to the media. When the Missouri House Investigative Committee report was published at 5pm on Wednesday, it contained disturbing details that many commentators found credible, and in some respects calls into question Greitens’ characterization of the affair as “consensual.”
Referred to as “Witness 1” in the House report, the hairdresser testified that during a hair-cutting appointment before the affair began “Greitens moved his hand up her leg and ‘all the way up to [her] crotch’ without her consent.”
Once they had become intimate, Witness 1 testified that Greitens continued to act without her consent: “‘Witness 1 testified that she did not consent to Greitens’ tearing of the shirt, exposing her;’ and ‘Witness 1 testified she did not consent to Greitens pulling her pants down to her ankles.'”
According to Witness 1’s testimony, she felt pressured to perform oral sex on Greitens, testifying:
“I’m bawling my eyes out. Yeah, so I’m still crying. And then he’s like – I can tell he’s still, like, in it – he’s still in this – in this thing that he’s got in his mind of whatever he’s doing, and he’s still like messing with me…
“I also know I have to be at work, and he’s not going to let me leave, because he’s obviously still horny. So I gave him oral sex at this point.”
The alleged act that led to Greitens’ upcoming trial for felony privacy invasion was, according to another witness, also done without Witness 1’s consent:
“She went downstairs. He had bound her hands to some sort of pull-up equipment with some sort of tape that he had, put a blindfold over her eyes. He had ripped her shirt and pulled down her pants some, because – she has a … a scar[.]. .. He had made some comment about that.
“She had seen a flash through the blindfold and that he had taken a picture.
“‘[S]he did not consent’ to the taking of the picture. ‘She said she was embarrassed and shocked that he had said that she had better not mention his name because he would then distribute the pictures.'”
More pressure on Greitens
Although Greitens is doing his best to discredit the testimony of his former hairdresser (by highlighting an unclear turn of phrase used once in her testimony that referred to “a dream”), calls for his resignation are growing. And those who are not calling for his resignation are not offering much support.
Reacting to Greitens’ speech on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said, “After taking a little time to process the initial committee report and then listening to the governor’s comments, it is clear to me that this governor must resign and if he fails to do so, I believe we should begin impeachment proceedings.”
Even the Republican Speaker of the House Todd Richardson said the testimony “outlined in the report is beyond disturbing.” Richardson fell short of calling for his resignation, but he was adamant the Missouri House Investigative Committee report was fair. “Let me be very clear about this,” he said, “this is not a witch hunt, and the committee had no political agenda.”
Pressure from outside the world of politics is growing too. Yesterday White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders failed to offer any support and referred to the allegations against Greitens as “very concerning.”
But the Kansas City Star’s Jeneé Osterheldt perhaps deserves the award for the most hard-hitting editorial on the story:
“The woman’s testimony, given under oath to a special Missouri House committee investigating Gov. Eric Greitens, reads like a disgusting description of a rapist straight out of “Law & Order: SVU.”
“…This is not consent. Consent is given freely. Consent isn’t given out of fear or force. She didn’t give consent to Eric Greitens.”