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Ex-N.J. governor says tell-all book is aimed at public acceptance

James E. McGreevey (center), with companion Mark O’Donnell (left), outside a book-signing party in Woodbridge, N.J.
James E. McGreevey (center), with companion Mark O’Donnell (left), outside a book-signing party in Woodbridge, N.J. (Mike Derer/ Associated Press)

PLAINFIELD, N.J. -- Two years after former New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey left office amid a sex scandal, he said he hopes his new tell-all book leads to public acceptance of his homosexuality.

McGreevey, who announced his resignation in a televised speech on Aug. 12, 2004, said in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday that he is ``stumbling and progressing" on a spiritual journey.

``What I didn't understand was that being gay, as with everything else, is a grace from God and that by accepting that grace and by accepting that reality, by embracing that truth, I could authentically be who I was," he said in the interview at the home he shares with his companion, Australian-born financier Mark O'Donnell.

McGreevey's memoir, ``The Confession," was in bookstores yesterday, coinciding with the airing of an interview with Oprah Winfrey taped last week in Chicago.

McGreevey acknowledged yesterday that his book contains some ``messy, shameful, sinful" passages, including details of his relationship with an Israeli that he says began when he was governor, then married and a new father. He said he felt he had to come clean about his personal and political life.

``The danger is when people have to act out in dark shadows," McGreevey said. ``If people can be who they are in the bright light of day, can celebrate their uniqueness . . . that's what promotes a moral fabric in a society."

On Winfrey's show, McGreevey discussed back-alley trysts behind a Washington, D.C., synagogue and anonymous sexual contacts with scores of men in bookstores and rest stops.

``The closet is a sick place. Every day, every hour, every minute, every interaction, I lied, I hid," McGreevey told Winfrey. ``That's not where you find love, in the back of a booth. That's where you fulfill a physical need. But that's not being godly, that's not finding love."

McGreevey, 49, retreated from the limelight and had remained publicly silent since resigning. He writes in the book that he was forced to quit after a man he loved, whom he put on the state payroll as homeland security adviser, threatened to reveal his homosexuality unless he was paid millions to stay quiet.

Two years later, McGreevey says he's moved on and is now in a committed relationship with O'Donnell. He says he's even thankful to the man, Golan Cipel, for forcing him to shed his false life.

``Ironically, he did me a favor," McGreevey told Regan Books publisher Judith Regan for her program on Sirius Satellite Radio. Without him, McGreevey explained, ``I'd still be in the closet today."

Cipel, who has repeatedly denied being gay, has said McGreevey forced himself on him and insists that McGreevey's portrayal of their relationship in the book is untrue.

McGreevey said in the interview with the AP yesterday that Cipel's responses to reports of the book's contents have been ``unfortunate."

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