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Missouri Governor Faces Calls To Resign


More calls for Missouri's governor, Eric Greitens, to resign after an investigation by the Missouri House released this week details - allegations of physical and sexual assault made by a woman with whom Greitens admitted to having an affair in 2015. The governor is a first-term Republican. He denies the allegations - calls the investigation a political witch hunt. St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann has been following this story for months and joins us. Rachel, thanks for being with us.

RACHEL LIPPMANN, BYLINE: It's my pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: The story began to break back in January. This is not just a story of a married man having an affair, is it?

LIPPMANN: No. This is - that is what the governor has admitted to, but the story goes much deeper than that. This starts back in January of 2018, the night of his State of the State address. When our local CBS affiliate ran a report outlining the details of this affair, they used tapes of the woman, who was the governor's hairdresser. Her now ex-husband had made those tapes without her knowledge. They included in this conversation allegations that she was tied up in the governor's basement, that he then took a semi-nude photo and threatened to blackmail her if she ever revealed the affair. The governor was indicted on February 22 on an invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking that photo and then transmitting it in a way that could be accessed by a computer. He goes on trial on that charge next month.

SIMON: What's been the reaction at the state capital, especially because, in this week's report, the woman was quoted for the first time.

LIPPMANN: This is how House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Republican who had been a supporter of the governor in the past, summed it up.


TODD RICHARDSON: The testimony outlined in the report is beyond disturbing.

LIPPMANN: There is a lot of graphic accounts of non-consensual sexual acts between the governor and this woman, although the woman also admits there were things she consented to. When the story first broke, there were a lot of Republicans who were calling for the governor to step down. Those calls got even louder after this report came out, and you started hearing them from people in more powerful positions. So far, the highest ranking person to do so is Attorney General Josh Hawley. And he is the leading GOP candidate to challenge Senator Claire McCaskill in November. You also had a major Republican donor, who had given $2 million to Greitens previously, called for him to step down. And then Democrats began to get in on the act, too. They'd been hesitant at first to demand his resignation because Greitens is somewhat useful to them. The dysfunctional relationship between the Republican governor and the Republican General Assembly can gum up the works sometimes. And it had kept some legislation they thought wasn't so beneficial from being passed. But now, I think because of the contents of this report and in the atmosphere of Me Too, they are demanding that he resign as well.

SIMON: Rachel, Governor Greitens came to office with much admiration. We're talking about a former Navy SEAL, four tours of duty, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Rhodes scholar. This is a man people have admired. What's happened?

LIPPMANN: He's a political novice, I think, in the style very much of Donald Trump. He has used the phrase blow up Missouri's politics - get the career politicians out. And I think that's playing a lot into the fallout from his own party - is that he has gone in and said, you know, I challenge all of these career politicians. And they're like, we don't need this gentleman anymore. But yes, it certainly has been a fall for someone who came out and portrayed himself as, you know, this family man, this outsider, somebody who wouldn't be corrupted by the ways of politics.

SIMON: Rachel Lippmann of St. Louis Public Radio, thanks so much.

LIPPMANN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHICANE SONG, "COME BACK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.
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