Column: Greitens’ sex scandal ends his political career

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens faces allegations of sexual assault and felony invasion of privacy, and the GOP’s response is dooming him.

Maddie Niblett is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

Even state governors aren’t immune to the rise in people believing sexual assault victims. Last Wednesday, a report was released detailing sexual assault allegations against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. In 2015, before becoming governor, Greitens apparently coerced his former hairstylist into engaging in sexual acts. To ensure her silence, Greitens allegedly blackmailed the woman with an intimate picture that he took without her knowledge or permission. The disgraced governor has already been indicted for felony invasion of privacy charges, but these new details of sexual assault are likely the final nail in the proverbial political coffin.

But Greitens isn’t going down without a fight. So far, he’s tried every Trump-patented method of turning people’s attention onto whatever he can spin as evidence that he’s the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt. Greitens’ scapegoat of choice is Kim Gardner, the St. Louis circuit attorney leading the investigation into him. Greitens wrongfully accused the prosecutor of breaking state laws after Gardner filed a (now-approved) motion to allow Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan Jr. to help the prosecution.

This type of story is nothing new: politician is accused of misconduct, politician denies the claims and his supporters stand by him, politician either faces no consequences and makes the whole thing go away or resigns into obscurity. What makes Greitens’ case so interesting is that it’s not just his political opponents speaking out; for once, people in his own party are, too.

Shortly after the report detailing Greitens’ actions of sexual misconduct, Missouri attorney general and likely Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley released a statement calling on Greitens to resign. Given that Hawley is one of the top Republican voices in Missouri, things don’t look great from our formerly up-and-coming state executive.

This kind of bipartisan backlash against someone who was relatively well-liked pre-sexual assault scandal is almost unprecedented. Indeed, Trump’s supporters and the Republican Party have largely stood by the president through over a dozen accusations of sexual assault. So, what’s different about this time?

Hawley’s decision to come out against Greitens is most likely a political move. Claire McCaskill, Missouri’s democratic Senate incumbent and Hawley’s opponent in the upcoming 2018 Senate race, has taken advantage of this blow to the GOP by attempting to paint the attorney general as being close to Gov. Greitens. Hawley distancing himself so obviously is designed to erase that image and appeal to moderate voters. It’s a smart move, given the Democratic “blue wave,” or major demographic shift toward Democrats, that is promising to come crashing down on the nation during the 2018 midterm elections in November.

However, simple partisan politics may not be the whole explanation. Hawley’s call for Greitens’ resignation could be one of the first examples of the long-lasting effects of #MeToo. The social media-based movement, which gained popularity in October 2017 and advocates for justice for sexual assault victims, saw dozens of politicians, entertainers, business people and many others brought down by allegations of sexual assault. #MeToo allowed victims a platform to share their story and be heard, instead of the accused being able to sweep the stories under the rug and away from the public eye.

To put it simply, the lack of partisan support that Greitens is facing is probably an indication of the way that political norms have changed in recent months rather than the product of certain political circumstances.

According to experts on the judicial system, it may be difficult to find an impartial jury because of the overwhelming negative opinion that most people have about this case — a good indication that, despite fighting tooth and claw and using every trick in the book, Greitens is probably going to lose. Even if he somehow manages to win the case, impeachment is still highly likely, especially since his party has all but turned its back on him.

The trial itself is set for May 14, so the final result of this scandal remains to be seen. Either way, whether Greitens is able to keep his position as governor or is removed and disgraced, this debacle is a stain on his political career that he will never be able to remove.

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