Missouri’s Republican sex scandal is way better than Trump’s

In this Jan. 29, 2018, file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks in Palmyra, Mo. Attorneys defending Greitens against an invasion-of-privacy charge are raising doubts about the testimony of a woman with whom he had an affair. In a court filing dated Sunday, April 8, 2018, his attorneys say the woman testified she never saw Greitens with a camera or phone on the day he is accused of taking a partially nude photo of her while she was blindfolded and bound. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo, File)

In this Jan. 29, 2018, file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks in Palmyra, Mo. Attorneys defending Greitens against an invasion-of-privacy charge are raising doubts about the testimony of a woman with whom he had an affair. In a court filing dated Sunday, April 8, 2018, his attorneys say the woman testified she never saw Greitens with a camera or phone on the day he is accused of taking a partially nude photo of her while she was blindfolded and bound. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo, File)

Need a break from Trump? Come with me to Missouri.

Where else can you find a Republican governor who’s under indictment on a felony charge of invading the privacy of his extramarital mistress?

This is surely the most under-reported scandal of the year, probably because the national press pays insufficient attention to flyover country. But the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of Eric Greitens is seriously story-worthy — not just because the details are so despicably dirty — but because his bunker mentality is so Trumpian. And the stench of the scandal is so bad that even Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls it “very concerning.”

I know you want the dirty details. Here we go.

Up until the moment in February when he was arrested and booked at a St. Louis jail, Greitens seemed destined for the fast track to national Republican glory. A full scholarship at Duke (where he majored in ethics), a Rhodes Scholarship, a doctorate from Oxford, a stint abroad as a Navy SEAL (where he won a Bronze Star and Purple Heart), creator of a nonprofit group that helps veterans, author of three books, a handsome hunk with a wife and two kids (he successfully campaigned for governor in 2016 as a family man) … wow, this guy had it all.

Plus, he had a hairdresser who doubled as his mistress.

According to a new report commissioned by the Republican-run state legislature, the mistress was a victim of physical and sexual assault. She spoke to the investigators, and was deemed credible. In 2016, Greitens invited her to his home while his wife was away. She says that Greitens ripped her shirt open, pulled down her pants, tied her to a piece of exercise equipment, tried to spit water into her mouth, blindfolded her, snapped a photo of her on his phone without her permission, and told her that if she ever mentioned his name to anyone, he would ruin her by ensuring that the photo went viral.

Or, in his alleged words, “I’m going to take these pictures, and I’m going to out them everywhere I can. They are going to be everywhere, and then everyone will know what a little whore you are.” She says he then coerced her into performing oral sex because she feared for her “physical self.”

The legislative report, released last week, jibed with evidence that was presented earlier to a grand jury — which indicted Greitens for committing a felony, “invasion of privacy in the first degree.” The charge is punishable by up to four years in the slammer. He goes on trial May 14 — not the ideal situation for a sitting governor.

There’s a lot more seamy stuff — the hairdresser says she subsequently slept with Greitens (“I really felt shameful of myself”) even though she says he slapped her after she told him she’d been intimate with someone else. But let’s skip to the political ramifications. This is where the fun begins.

In a new Missouri poll, 58 percent of Republican voters want the governor to keep his job. (He even got a standing ovation at a GOP fundraiser last weekend. This, from the so-called party of high moral character.) Thus emboldened, Greitens is refusing to resign. He says his liaison with the hairdresser was merely “a personal mistake,” and that the indictment is a “disappointing and misguided political decision,” a “fake charge” based on “lies.”

A smattering of Republican lawmakers have demanded Greitens’ resignation; the sole GOP leader to do so is Josh Hawley, the state attorney general. Hawley just so happens to be the top Republican contender for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Claire McCaskill. McCaskill is on the ballot this November. She’s a top Republican target, especially in a year when Republicans, terrified of losing the House, are trying to ensure that they keep the Senate. Beating McCaskill is a top priority.

But Hawley clearly fears that beating McCaskill will be tough, in the midst of the #MeToo era, if he’s weighed down with Greitens’ baggage. Which is why the Republican attorney general is at war with the Republican governor, and vice versa.

In the latest plot twist, Hawley announced Tuesday that Greitens committed “potentially criminal acts” — not with the hairdresser — but by allegedly using a tax-exempt charity’s donor list to enrich his gubernatorial campaign. On Tuesday night, Greitens retaliated. He says that Hawley, having demanded that he resign, is therefore too biased to investigate the charity case. Gretiens wants the courts to slap Hawley with a restraining order.

Clearly, the GOP has a problem. There’s some talk of trying to impeach Greitens. One Missouri Republican calls him “a classic sociopath” and the big question is whether or how the Trump regime weighs in. Trump would love to see Hawley knock off McCaskill, without the burden of Greiten’s baggage, but how can Trump credibly demand that Greitens quit? How can a misogynist credibly accused of sexually harassing 19 women possibly pass judgement on an indicted harasser who styles himself as Trump’s Mini-Me?

By the way, Missouri’s Republican headquarters is on record about the indictment. It says the whole thing was orchestrated by … take a wild guess … George Soros. As always, all roads lead back to the party’s favorite bogeyman.

I happen to believe that the blame should be placed on Greitens, but, then again, I’m old enough to remember when the GOP touted itself as the party of personal responsibility.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.