McGreevey: Much Further Out of the Closet

ByABC News
September 18, 2006, 3:28 PM

Sept. 18, 2006 — -- Steamy gay tell-all, or fodder for political historians? Americans can debate that to their hearts' content Tuesday, when former New Jersey governor James McGreevey goes on "Oprah" to talk about the straight-gay double life he said he led since he was a boy. The show was pretaped, and Oprah had audience members sign pledges to keep mum. But McGreevery's "Oprah" appearance may signal a new level of political confession in a nation that bares more of its soul all the time, and it might help sell books too.

"The McGreevey story is a tale of personal destruction that unfortunately played out in an extremely public stage," Robert A. Mintz, a lawyer who knew McGreevey during New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean's administration, told ABC News.

This Oprah appearance is carefully timed to the release of McGreevey's detail-laden memoir, "The Confession," which recounts years of furtive gay encounters at truck stops and in curtained rooms, and of the emotional liberation gained at the cost of greatly compromised responsibility in high public office.

Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey stunned the nation in a 2004 televised press conference. Appearing ashen-faced with his wife at his side, he declared, "My truth is I am a gay American." He said he'd had a long-running affair with an Israeli national, Golan Cipel, a poet and public relations specialist he'd hired as New Jersey's homeland security adviser. Cipel's apparent lack of credentials had raised many eyebrows.

Cipel, said McGreevey's advisers, had blackmailed the governor, which precipitated his resignation.

McGreevey now says his first encounter with Cipel, which occurred while McGreevey's wife was recovering from the birth of their first child, "was the first time in my life that a kiss meant what it was supposed to mean" and that "but for Golan, I would never have confronted my own truth."

But with enough he-said/he-said to keep the tabloids busy for weeks, the story now includes Cipel, who soon returned to Israel, telling reporters that he never kissed McGreevey, much less sustained a two-year affair with him. He said that McGreevey sexually harassed him.