Southern Voice

Cipel urges gays not to embrace McGreevey as hero
Man behind N.J. governor's resignation says ‘gay American' speech part of spin seeking sympathy

By Dyana Bagby
Friday, December 15, 2006

Gay Americans should not embrace former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey as a spokesperson or role model for their cause, according to Golan Cipel, the man McGreevey said was his lover and recounts alleged vivid romantic incidences between them in his book, “The Confession.”

In a phone interview this week with Southern Voice, Cipel, an Israeli citizen, stressed he was sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by McGreevey when he worked for the governor as a counselor and homeland security liaison.

When Cipel threatened a sexual harassment lawsuit against McGreevey, one of the most powerful governors in the country was forced to resign. And in what Cipel said was part of McGreevey's political spin, he came out and publicly told the world Aug. 12, 2004, he was a “gay American.”

“This was his spin, trying to blame the closet so he did not have to take responsibility for his sexual harassment,” Cipel said. “He wanted to take the easy path out.”

On his personal website, Cipel addresses three specific run-ins he had with the governor where he alleges McGreevey sexually assaulted him, including pushing him down on his bed as well as masturbating in front of him while his baby daughter was in the room with them.

“I know being in the closet is very painful, but I don't think it makes people go out and attack others like he did to me,” Cipel added.

“I truly believe the gay community is one of the first to be against violence, especially sexual violence — we are talking about a man who attacked me, who disregarded the law, who had no morals.”

McGreevey's spokesperson could not be reached by press time. But when Cipel was interviewed by Larry King on CNN two weeks ago denying the claims McGreevey made about their relationship, McGreevey issued a statement saying, “I stand behind the truth and accuracy of every word in this book,” according to the Associated Press. McGreevey added he and Cipel had a consensual relationship that lasted for months. ‘'My only wish for Golan is that he find peace and acceptance in his life,'' McGreevey said in the statement.

‘I want to tell the truth'

Cipel, an Israeli citizen who came to New York to stay with friends to specifically address with the American media McGreevey's claims in his book, laughed at McGreevey's wish for his peace.

“I'm not rebutting his book, but I want to tell the truth. I've wanted to talk since day one,” Cipel said.

“People like him should go to jail, but now this is part of the public debate. And I believe this is where the gay community can lead,” he added.

Cipel accused McGreevey of “using the gay community” to advance his public life and wishes national gay groups would ask for his side of the story rather than standing with McGreevey, as the Human Rights Campaign did when McGreevey resigned.

“The only way to deal with sexual harassment is to complain about it and not be afraid,” he said. “I want to send a message to the gay community that this is a serious issue. This guy lied — he cannot be a role model for anyone, straight or gay.”

Cipel, now back in Israel , said he is moving on with his life. He has continually denied he is gay and brushes off reports, mostly on gay blogs , that he is himself still in the closet.

“I'm very comfortable with my sexuality. I'm just answering the question [that I am not gay],” Cipel said.

“I personally don't have any problems with gay people. I have many gay friends and I have never been ashamed of them,” he said.

“That's where I think McGreevey and I are very different as well. McGreevey was always ashamed (about his feelings for men) and he never had gay friends.”

Cipel also told Larry King, and reiterated to Southern Voice, that he does not believe McGreevey is gay but rather bisexual.

“I just always thought he was bisexual. My concern is that he was the governor and he was trying to hit on me,” he said.

The shock of another man sexually harassing him in a country where he had no close friends left Cipel in a very vulnerable position and was why he felt he could not simply leave the situation, he said.

“He was the governor, he has all the power. At one point he said, ‘Only God is above me,'” Cipel said. “He was drunk with power.”

But when Cipel said McGreevey's friends threatened him if he went public with sexual harassment claims, he said he had no choice but to file a lawsuit. However, the lawsuit was never filed because McGreevey chose to resign, Cipel said.

“And then my picture was everywhere and the media portrayed me as McGreevey's lover. It's painful to be a victim of sexual harassment, but it's more painful to be portrayed as your attacker's lover,” Cipel said.

Cipel was accused of trying to extort money from McGreevey to keep silent about their alleged affair, but Cipel said that story was also part of McGreevey's political spin to retain some type of power and that the FBI cleared him of the charges.

“The Confession” is also another way McGreevey is seeking sympathy and to stay in the public eye, Cipel alleged.

“They [ McGreevey's staff] tried to prove I was gay. What he really wants is to be back in the spotlight, he wants support from any community. I just wish the gay community would not support him,” he added.