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Former N.J. Gov. James McGreevey Breaks His Silence

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 20, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MCGREEVEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: And so my truth is that I am a gay American, and I am blessed to live in the greatest nation with a tradition of civil liberties, the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world, and a country which provides so much to its people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLMES: That was an announcement that shocked the Garden State and the nation two years ago. And now former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey is telling his side of the story in the brand new book "The Confession".

Jim McGreevey joins us now. Very nice to meet you. Thanks so much for being on here, Governor.

MCGREEVEY: Thank you, Sean.

COLMES: Some people said that your coming out and resigning at that moment on that issue really had less to do with your being gay than covering up a corruption scandal, and that's really the reason you stepped down.

MCGREEVEY: I mean the reason why I stepped down was for the reason I stepped down. Namely the fact that I had very inappropriately and immorally put someone I was involved with on the payroll and subject to an extortion scheme, and I did — I confronted my own reality.

COLMES: But you talk in the book also about pay for play, and that happens so much and you were in that world.

MCGREEVEY: True.

COLMES: And the question is whether or not, did you consider yourself corrupt?

MCGREEVEY: No, I don't consider myself corrupt in the legal definition. I mean, obviously I played the game of "pay to play." I raised $41 million in my second election as Governor.

I mean, Alan, you know, I think it's rife throughout American politics and New Jersey politics. I mean, there were campaign contributors that were indicted, that were jailed. I think it's part of the problem in American politics, and it's not a Democratic or Republican issue, it's an American issue.

COLMES: But wasn't the issue less your being gay but that you appointed to a homeland security position someone who had no experience doing that. And when that came out, that was — was that more of an issue than — I don't think people really care what people's sexual preferences are.

MCGREEVEY: No, but...

COLMES: If it were just about being gay, would you have had to step down as Governor?

MCGREEVEY: No, if it was simply a matter of being gay, I would not have had to step down as Governor.

I think the problem was — and I think people who were responsible and properly demanded it — the fact that I put on my payroll somebody with whom I was involved with. And I think that necessitated -- and on top of that, you had the prospect of — thank you — the prospect of litigation going on. And that was untenable.

COLMES: And he denies it, of course. He said there never was an affair, that that didn't happen, that the night you talk about in the book where you went upstairs. He said he then left. And he said it's totally untrue.

MCGREEVEY: Alan — the only virtue of the truth is the truth. I mean, there — I have no — there is no advantage to be gained in this book by telling this story, except to point out, as Sean and I discussed earlier today, that in talking about a life filled with deception, in the importance of being honest and the importance of living a healthy and integrated life. Every — I stand by every single word in this book. It's truthful. It's factual.

HANNITY: Let me — welcome. I appreciate you being with us.

MCGREEVEY: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: You said in that piece, that day, "My truth is I'm a gay American." Is it really about gay or straight? You write at length your wife is in the hospital giving birth to your daughter. And what is it, the second night she's there. You describe [sex] as like — sent me through the roof, the best day of your life. You're at home while she's carrying your child in the hospital. You're having sex with a man in the house! That's not about gay or straight. That's about betrayal, isn't it?

MCGREEVEY: It is about betrayal. You're a thousand percent correct. It's totally about betrayal and irresponsibility. It's not being of sound character. Yes.

HANNITY: I guess maybe the question I have, as I read this book, this wife has suffered enough. One day this daughter of yours is going to read this book. Did you think about your wife and your daughter are going to read about all this one day? Your young girl? Did you think about them?

MCGREEVEY: Sure, of course I did, Sean. Yes. I did.

HANNITY: Don't you think that hurts them more?

MCGREEVEY: Actually, I think nothing hurt more than living through that reality, living through that pain. And hopefully, by sharing this story, they begin to understand the false place that I was at and that I accept responsibility for the pain that I caused them.

And that also I set forth how I got to this horrible place and talk about the importance of being honest, talk about the importance of being integrated, talk about the importance of being healthy.

HANNITY: One of the things I got out of the book — I don't know how to explain — too much information. You — you laid out stuff that I would never want to read or hear about anybody.

And in the context of when I was asking you about your daughter maybe one day reading this book, you talk at length, you write in the book that you would go to parkway rest stops, book stores, hanging out behind churches with regularity, a level of promiscuity I can't imagine, and having sex with strangers.

Why would you expose all of that, in knowing that your family also has to deal with that, beyond yourself? This is not just about your experience telling the world and them. They're going to have to live with that, too. Why would you expose all of that?

MCGREEVEY: I think what's important is, if you're going to be truthful, you can't be partially truthful and also, it's to not only help explain how I got to this horrible place but to teach a bigger lesson about, as I said to Alan, about living a healthy, integrated life. There's no merit in ducking the truth. And I think what was important for me is that I come clean.

HANNITY: Couldn't you have told them privately and not have to expose them to that?

MCGREEVEY: Yeah, Sean if I wasn't Governor of the state of New Jersey and didn't have a public resignation.

HANNITY: Not all the details. I mean, this is a detailed book about detailed sexual encounters.

COLMES: We're going to pick it up there. We'll pick it up there in just one second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: We continue now with the author of "The Confession", former governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey.

I have a lot of friends in New Jersey, and I told them I was going to be interviewing you...

MCGREEVEY: Yes.

HANNITY: You know what they're most angry about? When you appointed this guy that you were having this affair with to this position, they're mad -- this was after 9/11 -- Let me read from The New York Times, "attorney general John Farmer with the help of Carson Dunbar, the superintendent of state police, persuaded Louis Freeh, the former director of the FBI, to accept a nonpaying post as the head of the state's homeland security task force."

You initially appointed the U.S. attorney Herbert Stern. He turned it down. Stern declined the offer. And he chose, quote, "an Israeli citizen who had -- you met on a visit to the Middle East as special counsel on homeland security at an annual salary of $110,000.

It puzzled Democrats and outraged Republicans." This is what people of New Jersey tell me. Hang on, that's The New York Times -- a liberal paper.

They tell me that they can't believe the worst attack in American history and you're not thinking about them. You're thinking about the guy that you're involved in an affair with, and they feel that is the biggest betrayal. What do you say to those people in New Jersey?

MCGREEVEY: The first thing I'd say is they're right. I mean it was a betrayal to put your lover on the payroll.

Second point is -- you may be heartened by this -- that The New York Times was wrong -- is that the domestic security preparedness task force is run by the attorney general of the state of New Jersey.Golan was never a part of that. He was an adviser.

But I don't want to defend myself. It was wrong to put somebody, anybody involved in any close in homeland security, or anybody that you have a relationship with. It was entirely wrong, Sean. So I don't want to be in the business...

HANNITY: Let me ask you this question. And we can move on in just a second.

MCGREEVEY: Sure.

HANNITY: You raised the question in your book. You may be wondering, right. Did he, meaning you, give a thought whether this -- this affair was unfair to your wife? In this case, it's two wives. Both of them said at different points that they felt you used them.

Your wife collapsed the day you gave that speech. Is that true? Did you -- did you ever -- did your conscience bother you when you were involved in all of this?

MCGREEVEY: I know, reflecting upon it now, it was wrong. I think at the time, your self becomes so divided between who you are in terms of your family and your life and sort of acting out and sort of compartmentalizing your life. So at that particular point in time I think you're very divided, Sean.

I don't think you're operating in a healthy, integrated way, and that's one of the reasons that I think whether somebody is gay, or whatever they are, they accept their reality, they embrace it and you can do it in the light of open day.

COLMES: You know, Sean pointed out, so many things in this book are pretty dark.

MCGREEVEY: Yes.

COLMES: You go into specific detail about things that most people don't want to know about, even when they're best friends. And you take responsibility for a lot of this stuff. And now you're talking about having a healthy, integrated life. But the other reason you came forward about this was because you were about to be exposed by somebody who was going to sue you.

So when did you actually get a conscience? And would you have come forward if you weren't in possible legal trouble?

MCGREEVEY: Alan, I don't think I would have come forward. I mean to go back to Sean's earlier point, I think I was in the closet. I was in that terrible place. I didn't accept who I am.

COLMES: What gave you a conscience other than the possibility of being exposed?

MCGREEVEY: I think -- I think you have a conscience growing up in a loving family with a nurturing community. And I think what happens is, and that's part of the problem of being in the closet which is a very sick place. I mean it's self loathing. It's self denial. And you keep that separate.

And at a particular point in time you lose your sense of spirituality. You lose your sense -- I mean, I did. I don't want to generalize for all people. I can just speak to myself. But that -- that goes to and, as I said to Sean, off air, he gets the point of the book, and that's why I believe you have to be healthy and open.

HANNITY: It's called "The Confession". Appreciate you being with us.

MCGREEVEY: Thank you, Sean.

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