McGreevey: Blame 'Oprah' Spot, Not Me, for Book Sales

The gloves in the McGreevey divorce saga came off long ago.

Now, it's just plain ugly.

Former Garden State Gov. Jim McGreevey responded sharply this week to claims by estranged wife Dina Matos McGreevey that his calculated libeling of her as a homophobe polarized prospective gay readers, undercutting the sales of her recently released tell all, "Silent Partner: A Memoir of My Marriage."

"Instead of blaming the failure of her book on her awful appearance on the 'Oprah' show, where she wore an inappropriate and ill fitting ball gown with a plunging neckline," McGreevey's attorney wrote in newly filed court documents, "or blaming the continual rolling of her eyes indicating a strange affect, or blaming the fact that her book is poorly written or dull … she blames [McGreevey]."

McGreevey's attorney, Matthew Piermatti, who in the filing also invoked Shakespeare and argued that, if anything, the media controversy tied to the high-profile divorce would only drive book sales, disputed Matos McGreevey's legal claim that she deserves compensatory damages from the former governor.

Not only does McGreevey dispute that he libeled his estranged wife a homophobe, but his attorney says it would be impossible to put a dollar figure on how the libel would affect book sales if the court ever acknowledged Matos McGreevey's claim.

"To believe her assertion, you have to believe that [Matos McGreevey] has control of the reading public," Piermatti wrote.

The latest play by McGreevey came as no big surprise to Tobe Berkovitz, dean of Boston University's College of Communications, who described Matos McGreevey as an easy target.

"James McGreevey always was a media-savvy politician and his wife is just coming out like a media rube," Berkovitz said. "When you have two unsympathetic characters and you have one who knows how to play the press and one doesn't, you put your money on the one who does."

Berkovitz also predicted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that these two ultimately would reunite.

"In another year, when both of them are D-list celebrities, it will not surprise me when they write a tell-all book together," he said. "The question then is will they appear first on 'Dr. Phil' or 'Oprah'?"

McGreevey's filing is a response to Matos McGreevey's latest legal arguments, in which she "alleges her reputation was harmed in the eyes of community, and that third persons were deterred from associating with her."

"[McGreevey's] defamatory allegations -— that [Matos McGreevey] is homophobic and that she was aware of his sexual orientation(s) when the parties married — negatively affect book sales by deterring purchases by members of the gay community," her court filing reads.

Matos McGreevey's book was released May 1 to much fanfare — including an exclusive kick-off interview with Oprah Winfrey — but has since lagged in sales.

Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade, a gay and lesbian news Web site, dismissed Matos McGreevey's legal argument — and the couple's private lives entirely — earlier this week.

"I think Dina and Jim McGreevey [and their publishers] greatly overestimated the gay community's interest in their marital problems," he wrote in an e-mail to ABC News, describing McGreevey as "an unethical and unsavory character."

Regarding possible lost books sales, he said, "I just don't think that gays generally are so enamored of Jim McGreevey that they would boycott en masse Dina's book."

McGreevey's latest play, Naff wrote in a follow-up e-mail Thursday, only confirmed his previous position.

"Jim McGreevey would say or do just about anything to see his picture in the paper again, including criticizing his wife's clothes," Naff wrote. "He needs to find a job and get on with his life rather than to continue to milk this tawdry episode for more publicity."

Ivan Hoffman, an intellectual property lawyer in Los Angeles, agreed with McGreevey's attorney that it would be a serious challenge for Matos McGreevey to tie a dollars-lost value to her husband's accusations of homophobia.

The two are entrenched in a very public divorce battle that involves their 5-year-old daughter, Jacqueline. For now, the girl lives with Matos McGreevey and visits her father, who lives with his partner, executive Mark O'Donnell, every weekend and on alternate Wednesdays.

After McGreevey publicly announced his homosexuality with his wife by his side in 2004, he was forced from office. He and his wife separated, and he penned a memoir, "The Confession," in which he said his wife might have known he was gay.

In Matos McGreevey's book, she insists that she never knew that her husband was gay. She also has said publicly that he may be bisexual, citing their seemingly normal love life and his tendency to make comments about attractive women.

McGreevey bases his claim that she is homophobic, according to court documents cited by Matos McGreevey's attorney, on a May 2006 New York Post story that includes an interview with Ricardo Matos, Matos McGreevey's brother.

Matos told the newspaper at the time that his sister was getting over the heartache of her husband's announcement and that the two of them would sometimes make jokes at the expense of effeminate men — likening them to her now out-of-the-closet husband.

Matos McGreevey's book peaked at No. 8 on The New York Times best-sellers list on May 20, 2007, but has since fallen sharply in sales. The book retailer Web site lists "Silent Partner" as No. 4,649 on its book sales list.