A bizarre political scandal in Michigan took another convoluted turn Monday when a conservative state representative accused former aides of blackmailing him.
The development comes after a story published by the Detroit News on Friday that said that Rep. Todd Courser, a freshman Republican with tea party roots, "planned the distribution of a fictional email alleging he had sex with a male prostitute" — to divert attention from his affair with another tea party-backed state lawmaker, Cindy Gamrat.
In a lengthy audio statement posted on Courser's campaign website that alternated between apologetic and defiant, the lawmaker said that three former aides tried to "blackmail me into doing whatever they were requiring. In no way could I ever submit to that sort of pressure, so I simply refused and instead set out to do what I could do to expose the person or persons involved."
Describing the aides as "political operatives" who worked for him during and after his campaign, the three men identified by Courser did not return requests for comment by NBC News.
The email was a "bad choice," Courser acknowledged, though he added that it was designed to "offer disinformation" and to "expose the network" of those blackmailing him. Resigning, he said, would only mean he was "submitting to the authority of the establishment machine."
"It is absolutely essential for the cause of liberty to have these clandestine operations to control public officials exposed," Courser said at one point. At another, he said he needed "to ask for forgiveness from Representative Gamrat and her family and especially her husband."
Statehouse speaker Kevin Cotter said he had asked the non-partisan House Business Office to determine if there had been a "violation of House rules or any evidence of illegal behavior," NBC affiliate WDIV reported.
At the end of Courser's statement, he offers a phone number that he claims is connected to the people blackmailing him. An automated message, however, said that the phone was not accepting calls