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Kinder says his only relationship with stripper was to watch her dance

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 18, 2011 - Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican soon to declare his bid for governor, contends that Democrats are fueling stories about his acquaintance with a former Penthouse Pet for two reasons:

  • "They want to talk about anything but their failure in job creation;"
  • They want to highlight that Kinder, 57, is single.

"A single man is vulnerable to any fantastic charge,'' said Kinder late Wednesday, in what he asserted will be his last interview on the subject.
The Democrats say Kinder is passing the buck for his own failings.

Kinder spent the day talking to a number of news outlets, including the Beacon, about an acquaintance -- he declines to call it a "relationship'' -- that he had with former stripper and Penthouse pet Tammy Chapman almost 20 years ago.

The interviews came the day before the annual Governor's Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair, traditionally the unofficial kickoff to the campaign season. Most major politicians in both parties are expected to flock to the event, along with many journalists.

Kinder expects to launch his candidacy formally soon after Labor Day. But since the Chapman controversy broke almost two weeks ago, his campaign hasn't been able to talk -- or get anybody to listen -- about anything else.

Kinder's media blitz Wednesday marked his first public comments on the subject, other than a written statement issued late last week.

Why the delay? Kinder blamed, in part, Chapman's changing accounts.

But in addition, he added, he grappled awhile with the question, "Do you dignify spurious changes with any response at all?"

The lieutenant governor said he and his consultants have concluded that he must.

Kinder denies Chapman's most volatile assertions: that she regularly performed lap dances for him back in the 1990s, that he aggressively pursued her, and that he invited her to move into his campaign-rented condominium when the two ran into each other earlier this year.

(Click here and here for details of her allegations, first reported in the Riverfront Times.)

State Democratic Party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki replied in a statement: "It's now been nearly two weeks since reports of Kinder's odd behavior were published, and this is the best he can come up with?

"Peter Kinder would obviously like to find someone else to blame for his problems, but he's an adult and responsible for his own behavior," she continued. "Peter Kinder has nobody to blame here but himself. At this point, it's simply hard to believe anything Peter Kinder says. Peter Kinder is clearly in a desperate and sad place right now."

Post-baseball Game Entertainment

According to Kinder, he first met Chapman in the early '90s when he was a state senator and among "a bunch of guys who went to a club after a baseball game.''

The club was a strip club on the East Side. Chapman was among the strippers. "I met her on that occasion,'' Kinder said.

He returned to the club "something like 10 times over the next year,'' before deciding that "this is not consistent with my bringing up."

During his return trips, he said, "On some occasions I saw her, others I didn't."

He denies her accusations that she performed lap dances for him. The only money he may have given her, Kinder said, would have been tips while she and other strippers were dancing on stage.

"There are all kinds of fantastic allegations,'' Kinder said, adding that all are false.

Fast forward to 2008, when Kinder said that allies of his Democratic opponent -- former state Rep. Sam Page -- "trotted this woman out'' by unfurling large photos of Chapman when the lieutenant governor attended public events.

He said he did not recognize Chapman in the photos and that the news media didn't pursue the matter. Page could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Earlier this year, says Kinder, he was driving from south St. Louis to the West End when he had to go to the bathroom and stopped at a bar at a corner. He says he ran inside to use the men's room, then stopped at the bar to get a glass of wine.

The bartender was Chapman. The bar was Verlin's Bar and Grill, which advertises "pantless parties'' featuring its staff.

Kinder said she asked if he recognized her. He said he did. She then asked if she could take a photo of them with the camera on her mobile phone, which she did.

He says he stayed at the bar "for 30 or 40 minutes'' and has not been back.

On Thursday, a woman answering the phone at Verlin's said that Chapman lost her job at the bar some time ago, shortly after that photo was taken with Kinder.

The woman said the photo was taken "about two months ago."

Declines Her Request to Be Facebook Friend

As for her claim about the condo, Kinder and consultant David Barklage deny that Kinder made any offer for her to move in. Both men note that the residence wasn't rented until March and had no furniture until April.

Kinder said he can't recall exactly when he made that bathroom break at Verlin's but that it may have been prior to the condo's purchase. He assumes that Chapman may have recently become aware of the condominium because of press reports about it.

Kinder does have a record, however, when Chapman asked him to "friend'' her on Facebook. That request came over the internet in early June. He declined her request.

He says that was the end of any communication with Chapman until the story -- with that photo of the two of them -- showed up two weeks ago in the Riverfront Times.

Barklage and Kinder allege the involvement of John Ross, Chapman's friend and former Democratic candidate who has posted some of her photos on the web. They contend he has ties to the Riverfront Times, which the publication denied in a story posted this evening.

Kinder and Barklage echoed previous assertions by the lieutenant governor's campaign, and the state Republican Party, that state Democrats were behind the story and have helped keep it going.

Those assertions have been denied by the state Democratic Party and campaign operatives for Gov. Jay Nixon.

However, state Democrats have issued releases or made press calls almost daily raising questions about Kinder's alleged behavior, as asserted by Chapman, and his strip club visits.

Kinder also reinforced earlier GOP accusations that the story is aimed at distracting the public's attention from the struggling economy affecting the state and the country. Kinder alleges that Nixon is to blame for the state's troubles.

Nixon and the state Democratic Party have countered by citing favorable economic statistics showing Missouri doing better than many other states. The state's economy, Democrats add, have fared better lately than Kinder.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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