The life and times of a closet gay politician

Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey decided not to tell federal prosecutors about a $50 million extortion plot against him because it would expose his secret life as a gay man, he writes in his tell-all book “The Confession.”

A copy of the book, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, detailed how McGreevey ultimately decided to come out on his own after the blackmail threat was made by a former male lover. In a political stunner, he went public on Aug. 12, 2004 when he confessed to an extramarital affair with another man and announced his resignation a year before his term was up.

McGreevey’s book, due in bookstores Tuesday, details his inner battles with his homosexuality, his rise in New Jersey politics and his double life as a married father and a closeted gay. He described bedding the man whom he claims blackmailed him while his wife, Dina, was in the hospital after delivering their daughter.

He recalls how New Jersey state troopers parked outside as he met with Golan Cipel, the man he would later put in charge of New Jersey’s counterterrorism efforts despite having no experience. Cipel repeatedly has denied that he is gay.

McGreevey recounts how he took Cipel by the hand and led him upstairs in December 2001.

“We undressed and he kissed me. It was the first time in my life that a kiss meant what it was supposed to mean _ it sent me through the roof,” he wrote. “I was like a man emerging from 44 years in a cave to taste pure air for the first time, feel direct sunlight on pallid skin, warmth where there had only ever been a bone-chilling numbness.”

“I pulled him to the bed and we made love like I’d always dreamed: a boastful, passionate, whispering, masculine kind of love,” he wrote.

The affair continued and in 2002 Dina McGreevey confronted her husband, asking if he were gay. McGreevey thought about telling her the truth, but said nothing.

The affair soured and around Easter 2004, McGreevey had one of his last phone conversations with Cipel. Cipel said he has told his parents he had an affair with McGreevey.

McGreevey said Cipel demanded to see him, but McGreevey said he could not.

“If I don’t hear from you I’m going to have to take action,” Cipel says.

On July 23, 2004, the steps leading up to McGreevey’s resignation began when an aide told him that Cipel has threatened to file sexual assault charges against him if he did not pay $50 million. Weeks of back and forth with Cipel’s attorney went nowhere, and while flying over New Jersey in a helicopter, McGreevey thought about resigning.

McGreevey and his closest associates contemplated their options, including going to federal authorities.

“I knew it would stop the extortion campaign, but it would do nothing to protect my secret,” McGreevey writes. “Once an official complaint was made, I knew my heterosexual pretense was over. My story would land in the pantheon of messy love affairs.”

Dina McGreevey reacted with silence to her husband’s revelation, before finally saying: “Where are we going to live?”

McGreevey later told his parents.

“My father’s first response was, “You make a choice, Jim _ Coke or Pepsi. You were married twice, you have two wonderful daughters. Why don’t you try to make that work? Why don’t you make the regular choice?”

McGreevey says: “Dad, I’ve known my whole life. This is who I am.”

McGreevey, 49, works as an university-level educational consultant and an childhood anti-poverty advocate. He lives in Plainfield, N.J., with his partner, Mark O’Donnell.

© 2006 The Associated Press