The estranged wife of the nation's first openly gay governor fired back at her husband during an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," saying she never knew he was gay.

"He kind of gave me the news in cowardly installments," said Dina Matos McGreevey, who is divorcing former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey.

In divorce papers filed recently, the former governor wrote that his wife "knew of my sexual orientation before our marriage" and "chose to either ignore it or block it out of her mind, even when questioned by her friends."

He told the world in August 2004 he was "a gay American" and had an extramarital affair with a male aide. He resigned months later.

"I felt like my world had crumbled and my life was over," Matos McGreevey said. "In the course of the three days of his explanation and confession to me, it was clear to me that he never loved me."

Oprah Winfrey interviewed Matos McGreevey in a show that aired Tuesday, the same day "Silent Partner: A Memoir of My Marriage," was published by Hyperion Books.

"No one ever said to me that he was gay," she said. "It's a cliche that the wife is always the last to know, and it's true."

The former first lady stood with a frozen-faced smile beside her husband when he made the announcement about his sexuality nearly three years ago. Matos McGreevey said she was instructed to smile during that news conference.

"I smiled because I didn't want to break down," she said. "He told me, you have to be Jackie Kennedy today. And I'm thinking, Jackie Kennedy? Her husband was murdered. You cheated on me and I have to be Jackie Kennedy?"

"Silent Partner" is Matos McGreevey's response to her husband's memoir, "The Confession," which was published last September. In it, McGreevey described sexual encounters with aide Golan Cipel — who has denied having an affair with McGreevey — and wrote that he married Matos McGreevey to help him advance his political career.

In the fall, Winfrey landed an exclusive interview with McGreevey, who until then, had been publicly silent since announcing that he was gay.