SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Perhaps no one knows better than Dina Matos McGreevey how Suzanne Craig — the wife of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig — felt as her husband insisted he is not gay despite his guilty plea in a police sex sting.
Matos McGreevey once stood shellshocked next to her ex-husband, then-New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey, as he announced before TV cameras that he was “a gay American” and would resign.
“I was watching his wife the other day standing next to him, and I thought, ’Oh my gosh, that was me three years ago. Now here we go again,’ ” Matos McGreevey said in an interview at her home Friday evening. “She’s a victim of the choices he’s made.”
James McGreevey, the nation’s first openly gay governor, later said he stepped down rather than succumb to a $50 million blackmail threat from a male former lover.
When it was Suzanne Craig’s turn to stand stoically beside her husband this week, 40-year-old Matos McGreevey said she felt her pain. Matos McGreevey said she stood by her man in 2004 because she still loved him and she felt she had done nothing wrong.
“For me, I decided I was going to stand by my husband’s side. I was in shock, I had not had an opportunity to absorb what was happening,” she said. “I had 48 hours, 72 hours to try to make sense of what he was telling me.”
Asked if Suzanne Craig should follow her lead, Matos McGreevey said: “Only she can answer that question,” she said.
Republican officials said Friday that Craig will resign from the Senate on Saturday. The announcement comes amid a furor over Craig’s arrest and guilty plea in a police sex sting in an airport men’s room.
The 62-year-old grandfather denied he used foot and hand gestures to signal interest in a sexual encounter with an undercover officer and said his guilty plea to a reduced charge was a mistake.
Matos McGreevey predicted tough times ahead for the Craigs, and offered this advice to the beleaguered political wife: “Do what’s right for you and your family, not what’s politically expedient or what your husband wants you to do. That’s certainly something that I learned from my experience.”
Matos McGreevey said in the midst of her personal turmoil she called Hillary Rodham Clinton for advice. The former first lady also had been publicly humiliated by her philandering husband, though his indiscretions were with a female intern and did not involve gay sex.
“She said the best piece of advice I can give you is to get your own counsel and do what you think you need to do protect you and your daughter,” Matos McGreevey recalled. “And don’t let your husband’s advisers make decisions for you.”
These days, Matos McGreevey said she counsels others in similar situations who contact her by letter, e-mail, phone and in person, sometimes at unlikely places like the grocery store.
“I’ve had many conversations with people in my shoes,” she said.
Although she did not ask to become a symbol for spouses weathering the gay infidelities of their mates, Matos McGreevey said helping others means “the pain I have gone through has not been in vain.”
Jim McGreevey, 50, will begin full-time studies at General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in Manhattan, seminary spokesman Bruce Parker said Friday.
Matos McGreevey, who is now locked in a contentious divorce proceeding with her estranged husband, said the relationship was over once he came out. She said she is moving on, even dating, but has lasting issues trusting others.
“It’s very painful to know that you’ve been betrayed by the person you love, the person you trust,” she said. “And it’s equally painful when you have the rest of the world, who doesn’t know what you’re feeling, what your relationship is like, criticizing you for taking certain actions.”