His wife at his side, McGreevey told reporters in Trenton he had struggled with his identity and sexuality since he was a student. Despite two marriages and two children, the 47-year-old Democrat said in the end he realized he was homosexual.
“At a point in every person’s life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one’s soul and decide one’s unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is. And so my truth is that I am a gay American,” McGreevey told reporters Thursday.
But he said he had allowed himself to become involved in an adulterous homosexual affair, an act that violated his marriage vows and prompted his resignation.
“I am also here today because, shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable,” he said.
“Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign,” he added later in his six-minute address.
The announcement stunned New Jersey residents, but the underlying questions that forced the governor to resign had less to do with the admission of his homosexuality and more to do with old-fashioned patronage, officials said Friday.
Several New Jersey officials and McGreevey aides told the Newark Star Ledger and New York Times that the man the governor had the affair with was 35-year-old Golan Cipel, an Israeli citizen who worked in the state’s counterterrorism office.
Cipel was hired in January 2002 to work as a senior adviser in the state’s new homeland security office. Despite limited experience in the field, Cipel earned more than $100,000 a year, one of the highest salaries in the state’s government.
“The gender of the person he had the relationship with is irrelevant,” Steven Cohen, a professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, told the New York Times. “The problem is putting a lover on the payroll in some fashion.”
Given his foreign citizenship, Cipel was not given federal security clearance, meaning he could not sit in on high-level intelligence briefings. As pressure from the state legislature mounted, the governor reassigned Cipel. The Israeli left the state government in August of that year.
But McGreevey aides and a public relations specialist hired by the governor told the FBI and local reporters late Thursday that Cipel was now trying to extort money from McGreevey by threatening to make the affair public unless he was paid millions of dollars.
Published reports said that Cipel was likely to file a sexual harassment suit against the governor as early as Friday. But neither Cipel nor his attorney could be reached by reporters.
McGreevey was elected in 2001, but had seen his popularity take a beating as allegations of improper fundraising swirled around aides and the state struggled to overcome a $5 billion shortfall inherited from former Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
Born in Jersey City in 1957, McGreevey attended college at Columbia University and later earned a law degree from Georgetown University. He also has a master’s degree in education from Harvard University.
He was elected to the state legislature in 1990 and later to the state senate. He was also elected mayor of Woodbridge, N.J. in 1991, a position he held until his election in 2001.
The New Jersey Democrat is the second governor to resign in recent weeks. In June, Republican John Rowland, Connecticut’s governor, stepped down amid an ongoing corruption investigation and threats of impeachment.