US lawmaker won’t resign after effort to smear self
LANSING, Michigan (AP) — A Michigan state lawmaker said he won’t resign after sending an email to Republican supporters falsely claiming he was caught having sex with a male prostitute — in an apparent attempt to deflect attention from a real affair.
The Detroit News, citing audio recordings, reported Friday that state legislator Todd Courser had someone send the email to distract attention from his alleged extramarital affair with another lawmaker. He said in a statement released Monday he was the target of a blackmail attempt.
“My actions in and around these events in the email that was sent to misdirect attention were my doing both in planning and execution,” Courser said in a nearly 30-minute audio file posted on his campaign website. “No one else has the responsibility. ... They were mine and mine alone to carry.”
It’s unclear who actually sent the email.
The Michigan House of Representatives Business Office reviewed email and personnel records over the weekend, the Detroit Free Press reported. The investigation is to determine whether Courser and Republican state Rep. Cindy Gamrat broke House rules or whether there’s evidence of illegal behavior.
Gamrat hasn’t commented.
In the audio statement released Monday, Courser apologizes to his family, his constituents and Gamrat’s family. He blames former staffers for conspiring with others to bring him down and vowed to learn the identity of the alleged blackmailer.
The News obtained two recordings secretly made in May by a former aide of Courser, a social conservative backed by the conservative tea party movement. In the recordings, Courser asks the aide, Ben Graham, to email Republican activists and operatives from an anonymous account to create “a complete smear campaign” about him.
In the recordings, Courser tells Graham that he and Gamrat, with whom he took the unusual step of combining office operations, received identical text messages about their relationship that day from an unknown number. Courser wonders aloud whether someone had pictures, video or audio recordings of him and Gamrat.
Neither Courser, a married father of four, nor Gamrat, a married mother of three, directly confirmed or denied having a sexual relationship during the recorded conversations. But they also didn’t dispute Graham’s characterization of their relationship as an extramarital affair, the newspaper reported.
Graham said when he refused to send the email, he was stripped of some of his duties before Courser fired him in early July.
The sexually explicit email was received by Republicans on May 20 and 21, the two days following Courser’s recorded meeting with Graham. During the meeting, Courser reads aloud portions of a draft email.