Eric Greitens, the married Republican governor of Missouri, allegedly tied his mistress to a piece of exercise equipment, blindfolded her and took a picture without asking her permission, informing her that if she went public about their affair, he would make sure the photo went public, too.
Then last week further allegations came to light, contained in a 24-page report commissioned by the state’s legislature. The details were damning and explicit. Greitens, his now-former paramour claimed, had variously hit, kissed and coerced her into giving oral sex without her permission.
Greitens, who only last summer was heralded as a “rising star” in the Republican Party, is now under indictment on a charge of invasion of privacy, with a trial set to begin in mid-May. He’s declared his innocence, claiming all that happened was a consensual affair between adults prior to his election as governor that he now — shockingly — regrets. As for all the rest? It’s all “lies” and “fake charges.”
And I am betting that unless you live in Missouri or a nearby state that shares a media market, you know nothing about this.
This is no doubt partly because the Trump presidency is a news black hole, sucking up so much of our attention that almost nothing else can break through.
But it’s also because the Trump administration, by ratcheting up the bounds of what is acceptable — at least to President Trump — is ensuring that actions that would normally shock all of us fly under the news radar.
Even the most intrepid political junkies struggle to keep up. Last night, former FBI director James B. Comey claimed on national television that Trump is “morally unfit to be president,” saying he believes it is “possible” the Russian government could be blackmailing him since, after all, “I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013.”
Meanwhile, porn star Stormy Daniels is in court, seeking a public confrontation with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen – who appears to have had a lucrative business negotiating non-disclosure agreements between women, well beyond just Stormy Daniels, who alleged sexual encounters between themselves and Trump or other Republicans. The news comes so fast that as we were about to publish this piece, it was revealed in the Monday afternoon court hearing that Fox News host Sean Hannity has been a Cohen client.
Then there is the ongoing corrupt soap opera that is the Trump Cabinet. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s $31,000 dining room set is so six weeks ago. This month, attention shifted to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is reported to have rented an apartment from the spouse of an energy lobbyist at under-market rates; who has insisted on flying first class, claiming security threats that no one appears to be able to document; and who has reportedly demanded his security detail use sirens to speed through Washington traffic.
How can a governor of a flyover state accused of what once would have been a three-ring-circus sex scandal break through the media noise? Answer: He can’t.
True, Some of Greiten’s fellow Republicans, increasingly concerned the sheer disgust of this spectacle will cost them politically in the #MeToo era, would like to see the back of him. The editorial board of the Kansas City Star called on Republicans and Democrats to work together to impeach Greitens if he doesn’t promptly resign.
But other Republicans remain silent. After all, even as polling shows that 48 percent of Missouri voters think their governor should resign, that position is not shared by most self-identified Republicans, 58 percent of whom say he should remain on the job. Greitens received a standing ovation at a fundraiser held this past weekend, and rumors are flying that local donors are threatening to withhold support from Republicans who speak out against their governor. That in turn led Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) — who is running for reelection this fall — to take to Twitter:
Out-and-out corruption and incredibly sleazy, potentially criminal sexual behavior are getting more and more normalized with each passing scandal. At a certain point, we risk that it will all become so much background noise — and we’ll get used to it. We shouldn’t. But it seems — incredibly — that we are doing just that. And that’s the greatest scandal of them all.