If you previously thought the intrigue surrounding Governor Eric Greitens was straight out of House of Cards
, wait 'til you catch today's episode.
In court this afternoon, the attorney representing Greitens' most vocal accuser was forced to reveal the person who gave him $50,000 to encourage his advocacy
— and it turned out to be a politically connected newspaper publisher.
Attorney Albert Watkins, who is representing the ex-husband of the hairdresser with whom Greitens had an affair, appealed all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court earlier today to conceal the source of two $50,000 cash payments made to his firm earlier this year. With appeals exhausted, the Clayton attorney offered two answers this afternoon that only deepened the mystery. He said he'd received $50,000 in cash from a courier "identified only as Skyler," as the Kansas City Star reported
. The other $50,000? That came from Scott Faughn, who publishes the Missouri Times.
Previously the mayor of Poplar Bluff, Faughn got into the newspaper business in 2012. He's become a Jefferson City power broker. He hosts a television show called This Week in Missouri Politics
, which airs at 11 a.m. on Sundays on KDNL (ABC-30), as well as on stations in Kansas City and rural Missouri. He's also a frequent guest on KMOX, where he has been highly critical of Greitens without ever mentioning any financial role in supporting his accusers.
As the Kansas City Star first reported
, one of Faughn's major sponsors is Sterling Bank. The bank, which is located in Poplar Bluff, is a major player in the low-income housing tax credits that Greitens has vowed to reform — cutting off a large source of revenue for banks like Sterling.
Lt. Governor Mike Parson, who would become governor if Greitens is impeached, supports restoring funding for the tax credits.
In a fifteen-minute monologue live-streamed on Twitter, a defiant Faughn failed to explain the reason for the payment or the source of the money. Instead, he sought to distance himself from Greitens' accusers, saying that he'd never met Watkins' client or KMOV journalist Lauren Trager, who first broke the story.
And then, bizarrely, he attempted to take the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
for its ethics. Faughn apparently took great umbrage that columnist Tony Messenger tweeted that his involvement with the money delivery could cause problems for Missouri Times
"I'm not going to take that from the Post-Dispatch
," Faughn proclaimed, claiming the daily has taken money from supporters of Obamacare and then written favorable stories about it. "By God, could you live in a larger glass house?" he demanded.
Faughn did not respond to a direct message seeking further explanation of his role delivering the money to Watkins or where it came from.
In his live-streamed monologue, Faughn explained only that he'd hired Watkins because he's working on a book about the 2016 governor's race.
"This is the juiciest story of all time," he said at one point. "The fact I'm now in it is unfortunate, but you can go to scottfaughn.com and order your book. It's not the best thing for me, but it is good for the book, so I'll take it."
But what might be good for Faughn's book could also be very bad for Missouri journalists. Greitens has already tried to suggest the press is out to get him; the fact that a prominent pundit given a platform by KDNL and KMOX has, in fact, some sort of vested interest in championing the governor's critics can only add fuel to the fire.
Sure enough, the arguments are already surfacing on Twitter; it's surely only a matter of time before Greitens starts paying to sponsor posts on a social media feed near you blasting the "liberal media" for paying his accusers. Never mind that Faughn, a self-described "simple West Butler County hillbilly," is no quote-unquote Soros liberal .... and even started his paper with former House Speaker Rod Jetton, a Republican with a sex scandal of his own in his past
. (Jetton is no longer involved with the paper.)
And so it goes. As usual, journalism will take the black eye, and those of us who would never courier $50,000 cash for a "friend," much less have a "friend" with $50,000 cash in the first place, will keep plodding away trying to call it as we see it.
But we digress. What could possibly happen next in this stranger-than-fiction soap opera? Tune in for the next episode. Might we learn more about this mysterious "Skyler"? And after that, might Scott Faughn have to reveal his
Sarah Fenske is the editor in chief of the Riverfront Times. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @sarahfenske