The disgraced former governor of New Jersey, in case anyone needs a reminder, was forced to announce his resignation in the summer of 2004 for, among other alleged offenses, putting his lover on the state payroll in a six-figure job for which he had few qualifications.
But that’s not the story McGreevey would have you believe. Not if you listened to his resignation speech, read any of his interviews or his memoir, “The Confession,” released to little acclaim last year. No, according to McGreevey, the reason he quit was because his “truth” is that he is “a gay American.”
McGreevey, who readily admits that he is attention-starved and has been since he was a little boy, is now making headlines for his decision to become an Episcopalian priest. Bully for him.
There are millions of gay people in this country. Most of us are not as politically powerful and connected as Jim McGreevey once was. We work hard, pay our taxes, put up with discrimination, and, I’d like to think, if we ever get caught doing something wrong, do not rashly blame our fate on an inability to deal with sexual orientation. But Jim McGreevey was too much of a coward to admit that what he did was just plain wrong and that he was entirely to blame for his misfortune.
The world is unfair to gay people and the higher rates of suicide, depression and personally destructive behavior amongst gays, especially gay men, has a great deal to do with external homophobia. But let there be no mistake: McGreevey was forced to resign because he was a corrupt politician who shared more in common with the men in his administration now serving time in jail than he would care to believe.
Rather than own up to his abuse of office, McGreevey conflated his political corruption with his own struggles as a gay man. In so doing, he lent credence to the ignorant meme peddled by conservatives that gays are emotionally unstable and shifty people who cannot be trusted as individuals, never mind as public servants.
Conservatives once said gays should not be schoolteachers because they would molest students; they now say that soldiers should not be allowed to serve openly because they’ll make sexual advances toward their fellow service members. McGreevey did the bigots’ work for them by claiming it was his homosexuality that caused his resignation.
In his memoir, McGreevey says that even though it was wrong to carry on an affair with an employee, his lover Golan Cipel was more than qualified for the six-figure “consigliere” role that he played. In his desperate attempt to show that his sexual repression somehow caused his political corruption, McGreevey effortlessly unburdens himself of blame.
The logic of McGreevey’s explanation dumps responsibility on the cruel, heterosexual world that repressed him, transformed him into a compulsive liar, fed his need for widespread public approval and – you guessed it – forced him to hire an unqualified foreign national with no FBI security clearance onto his personal staff and then sleep with him while his wife delivered their premature baby in an emergency C-section. Give me a break.
McGreevey’s dissembling about “my truth” aids him in his mission to show that it was his homosexuality, or his psychologically diagnosed “severe adjustment disorder,” that led him to behave inappropriately. Many straight politicians get in trouble for doing things similar to what McGreevey did, yet they do not make the absurd contention that their sexuality is an excuse for bad behavior. Never, in McGreevey’s analysis, is anything plainly his fault and his fault alone.
Why can’t McGreevey just recede into the past? As recent events indicate, McGreevey’s desire for fame borders on the shameless. In addition to Oprah’s couch, profiles in the Advocate and GQ and a highly publicized book tour, McGreevey auditioned for a role opposite Joan Rivers on a now-scuttled television show in which all three of the catty comedian’s co-hosts would be gay men.
McGreevey’s latest exploit is a desperate cry for attention, a shallow attempt to relive his 15 minutes of fame.
I think it’s long past time we told him to just go away.