JERUSALEM – The Israeli man at the center of New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey's (search) resignation over a gay affair said in an interview published Sunday that he is straight and had no idea initially that his former boss is a homosexual.
Golan Cipel (search) told the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot that McGreevey repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances. Cipel said he informed the governor at one point that he planned to sue him for sexual harassment, and lawyers were negotiating a settlement when McGreevey resigned last week.
"It doesn't bother me that it is said I am gay, but I really am not. I'm straight. On the other hand, to accuse me of being an extortionist? Someone here has lost his mind," Cipel was quoted as telling Yediot.
McGreevey, who is married, announced his resignation Thursday, acknowledging he is gay and had an affair with a man.
Sources within the McGreevey administration named Cipel as the lover and said he had demanded millions of dollars to stay quiet.
In a news conference Friday, Cipel's attorneys denied the claims, saying McGreevey's attorney offered to pay if Cipel did not file a lawsuit. Allen Lowy (search), one of Cipel's New York attorneys, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Sunday seeking comment.
Sources in McGreevey's administration said Saturday that Cipel originally demanded $50 million but the figure dropped to $5 million as negotiations progressed.
McGreevey appointed Cipel as New Jersey's $110,000-a-year homeland security adviser in 2002 without a background check or official announcement. The appointment was criticized, and Cipel was reassigned a few months later. He left government soon after.
The Israeli reporter, Yair Lapid, who interviewed Cipel for Yediot said the 35-year-old spoke rapidly throughout the interview and appeared frightened and emotional. Cipel is in New York.
Cipel said he wanted to forget about McGreevey after he left New Jersey and took a job in New York, but he said the governor continued to make unwanted contact.
"At first, it didn't occur to me that he was homosexual. The man looked happily married, he has children and his wife was very active in the campaign and election," Cipel said.
But on long nights of campaigning, Cipel said "he hit on me over and over. I got to a point where I was afraid to stay with him alone."
McGreevey spokesman Micah Rasmussen disputed that claim Sunday, saying, "These are all false allegations by someone who's trying to exploit his relationship with the governor."
Cipel was quoted as saying he identified with the "feelings of victimization" women feel when they are sexually harassed, and he felt trapped.
"It didn't occur to me that it could also happen to a man, and it certainly didn't occur to me that it could happen to me," Cipel was quoted as saying. "Think about how scary it is when we are talking about a powerful man like the governor of the state of New Jersey."
Cipel said his lawyers contacted McGreevey's attorneys and informed them that he planned to sue the governor. Negotiations on a settlement began, Cipel said.
"They made a few proposals, but before we answered them, he decided suddenly to resign," Cipel said, adding the governor was convinced they were about to file the lawsuit.
"He preferred to admit he was homosexual rather than stand opposite accusations of sexually harassing a subordinate. If you ask me, McGreevey resigned because he knew that the facts surrounding the harassment against me would come to light and he knew I could prove it," Cipel said.
Cipel said he would stay in New York to see the case through.
"I could have gotten on the first plane home, but I am staying here until justice is done," Cipel was quoted as saying.