What's Really in McGreevey's Closet

Brace yourselves. In the next week you'll hear more than you probably cared to know about Jim McGreevey's sex life. As the ex-NJ Guv's tell-all ...
by | September 15, 2006

Brace yourselves. In the next week you'll hear more than you probably cared to know about Jim McGreevey's sex life. As the ex-NJ Guv's tell-all book hits stores, the publicity machine is winding up to the inevitable Oprah interview, which was taped a couple of days ago and airs on Tuesday.

Thanks to some talkative members of Oprah's studio audience who broke confidentiality agreements by gabbing to the press, we know McGreevey's most scandalous revelation. McGreevey says his affair with Golan Cipel began while his wife was in the hospital giving birth to their daughter Jacqueline. Ouch.

At least this time through the spin cycle, McGreevey's intentions in going public--to sell books--are clear. (And you thought leaks only outed CIA agents?) The last time around, during his carefully worded "I'm a gay American" speech, McGreevey's intentions were a bit murkier.

By coming out of the closet in such dramatic style, McGreevey only deflected attention from his true scandal. And it turns out to be a step backward for gays.

McGreevey had hired his fling, who had zero homeland security experience, as his chief advisor on the issue. Really, it didn't much matter whether McGreevey was gay or straight, or whether his lusts had led him to hire a man or a woman to the homeland security post. Patronage was his sin. And in a state with real terrorist targets--New Jersey lost 681 residents on 9/11--it was a difficult sin to forgive.

Still, I used to think McGreevey's story, in an odd way, represented a political step forward for gays. It was a sign of better times, I thought, that a sitting governor could come out of the closet--and that somehow that wasn't the scandal. And whatever one thought of McGreevey's politics, it was hard not to sympathize with his personal struggle. He's not the first gay man who's had a hard time squaring what he knew about himself with conventional ideas of marriage, or in McGreevey's case his ambition as a politician. But he may have been the first to admit to that struggle in a press conference standing next to his wife.

Now, I think McGreevey represents a step back. As Monica Yant Kinney points out, 77 percent of respondents in a recent poll mistakenly believed that McGreevey resigned because he is gay. Only 9 percent thought that an ethical lapse had anything to do with it. So there's the lasting memory: you come out of the closet, you can't serve.

But he'll sell a lot of books.

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