January 29, 2018

Yes, No, or Is (Greitens Edition)

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." 

President Bill Clinton famously used that line in 1998 to defend statements about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. When asked about the affair previously, he had said there "is" not one instead of there "was" not one. So, Clinton argued that was truthful since the affair was in the past (was), not in the present (is). His efforts at legal hairsplitting were rightly panned since it was clearly an attempt to mislead.

Missouri's embattled Governor Eric Greitens has a similar problem as he tries to survive the scandal that he had an affair as he campaigned in 2015 and allegedly took a revenge porn photo for blackmail. After hiding for several days, he started giving interviews. But despite earlier denials from his attorney that Greitens had not taken a nude photo of his mistress, the governor's language suggests otherwise.

In his first interview about the scandal, he refused to answer "yes" or "no" when the Associated Press asked him if he had taken a nude photo. But, he did answer emphatically that there was no violence or blackmail. He even added that "there was no threat of using a photograph for blackmail." But he wouldn't answer if he took a photo (for non-blackmail purposes) even when the reporter repeatedly asked the question. He instead talked about it being a "consensual relationship" and then didn't actually answer the question. If he didn't take a photo, he could've easily said that along with his clear denials of violence and blackmail.

For his next interview, he sat down with a longtime friend for a local TV news broadcast. When first asked about the allegations, he appeared to use the present tense: "There's no blackmail, there's no violence." He later made it past tense by saying that "there was no hush money, no violence, no blackmail, no threat of blackmail, no threat of photograph and blackmail." He did not deny taking a photo, but merely denied threatening to take a photo (which he wasn't actually accused of doing).

(screenshot of Fox 2 interview with Greitens)

State Democratic leaders have asked Greitens to sign an affidavit certifying he didn't take a photo as well as his reiterating his denials of violence, blackmail, and other affairs. If he signed such a document with a false statement, it would be perjury (like what got Clinton in trouble). He has not agreed to the request.

Why does this matter? Words matter and character matter. Greitens is trying to deny everything but the affair, but when asked about specific allegations he changes the subject. He's already shown himself willing to lie and break promises. If he is continuing to mislead the public, that's a serious problem. Greitens has shown himself unfit for office.

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