Initial discussion on talk shows and cable news of New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's resignation has rapidly devolved to a single question, or rather on a pair of opinions. No, he shouldn't have resigned because he was gay. Or, being gay had nothing to do with it, he hired his gay lover for a $110,000 state position for which that man was unqualified -- corruption, ergo, gone.
McGreevey was being blackmailed. Just as attempted blackmail, and dithering over whether to make the payoff, was at the heart of Watergate and of Nixon's resignation, McGreevey didn't give up the game until he was forced to turn evidence of Golan Cipel's attempt to shake him down over to state investigators.
Here are the key paragraphs from the New York Post's August 13 story. The first is the lead -- it's inexcusable to miss it:
"New Jersey Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey stunned the nation yesterday by announcing he is resigning because he is gay and had an extramarital affair with a man who aides said tried to blackmail him for up to $5 million."
Further down in the story we get to the nut of the matter:
...Channel 4 quoted a federal law-enforcement official as saying Cipel tried to extort $5 million from the governor.
A senior McGreevey political adviser said that three weeks ago, Cipel tried to blackmail the governor by threatening to file a sex-harassment suit.
"A demand was made for millions of dollars," the adviser said. "Unless these monies were paid, the governor would be exposed to charges of sexual harassment and worse. Therefore it was turned over to appropriate law enforcement."
The adviser said a lawyer for Cipel "indicated that should the money be paid, Cipel would disappear until after the 2005 election."
"A second source, a high-ranking member of the McGreevey administration, said Cipel made several threats about a suit and demanded "an exorbitant sum of money to make it go away."
There were widespread reports that Cipel planned to file the sex-harassment suit today.
It appears from this report that McGreevey dithered for three weeks about those blackmail threats. That puts him in exactly the same position as Nixon.
For a government official to be under the influence of blackmail, as McGreevey obviously was, is completely impossible. It puts that official in another's power -- for just about anything.
In addition, if he could be blackmailed over a gay affair, it matters that the governor was gay. It matters a whole lot.
That cable shout shows should overlook this may be understandable -- even though it appears on the front page of one of the major newspapers in the biggest city in America. But that right-wing talk and conservative blogs should overlook it is simply beyond belief.
That old crime reporter, Boston talk show host Howie Carr, must be on vacation. And in fact, he is.
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