The other side of the McGreevey affair?

By Tim Grieve
Published August 14, 2004 12:02AM (EDT)

The other shoe has dropped in New Jersey, and the surprise resignation of Gov. Jim McGreevey is quickly becoming a tangled "he said, he said" affair.

On Thursday, McGreevey's aides identified Golan Cipel as the man with whom the governor had an affair, and they told the FBI that Cipel's lawyer had attempted to extort money out of the governor with the threat of a sexual harassment lawsuit. On Friday, Cipel issued a statement in which he accused McGreevey of making "repeated sexual advancements" toward him while he was employed by the state.

"When I finally dared to reject Gov. McGreevey's advances, the retaliatory actions taken by him and members of his administration were nothing short of abuse and intimidation," Cipel said in the statement. "After a long period of pain and introspection, I realized that in order to live my life, to move forward with my life, I needed to put this behind me. But the only way to do this was to have Gov. McGreevey take responsibility publicly for his horrible actions, which he did by resigning from public office."

According to the New York Times, Cipel's lawyer said Friday that his client was a "double victim" -- first of sexual harassment, then of a "smear campaign" by the governor. Lawyer Allen Lowy said at a press conference that it was McGreevey's representatives, not Cipel, who first mentioned the idea that McGreevey might pay Cipel money in order to keep him quiet about his allegations.

As the charges and counter-charges flew Friday, more questions arose about the political ramifications of the McGreevey matter, both in New Jersey and beyond. As expected, Republicans amped up their calls for McGreevey to resign immediately, rather than wait until Nov. 15 as he has planned. And at least one commentator, Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford, has begun to wonder whether the Bush-Cheney campaign can "neatly connect McGreevey's sexuality to its anti-gay agenda," thereby turning New Jersey from solid blue to maybe something a little purple. But as Crawford notes, it may be tough for the Republicans to move New Jersey voters. Two years ago, Democratic Sen. Bob Torricelli resigned amid scandal just before the election, and Garden State voters still picked a Democrat, Frank Lautenberg, to replace him.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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