Paul Stanley recalls scandal that derailed his career
(WMC-TV) - He was once a married state senator from the Mid-South who ran for office on family values. Then, he was caught in an affair with an intern, which led to extortion, and eventually cost him his marriage and his career.
These days, former Tennessee state senator Paul Stanley splits his time between his home in Franklin and his boyhood home in Savannah. It's a sharp contrast to 2009, when Stanley's sexual relationship with a state capitol intern and subsequent extortion attempt was an open book.
Stanley has since written a book detailing his fall from grace - a long descent for the ultra conservative Republican with a political foundation built on "family values".
"I was not a person who just went after interns," Stanley said. "I mean that, you know, wasn't what I did at all."
But Stanley admits he set his sights on 22-year-old intern McKensie Morrison her first day on the job.
"I had someone ask me - it was actually a pastor friend mine - said, 'When did you know you were going to have an affair with her?' And I said, 'The moment I laid eyes on her.'"
Their relationship went from professional to personal a month later.
"I just knew it was probably going to be an easy opportunity to cross that line," Stanley said.
According to Stanley, the affair began the same day as the Stanford Financial scandal that eventually cost him his job as a financial advisor. But it was his behavior in the bedroom that eventually cost him much more.
"Our affair lasted about five and a half (to) six weeks," he said.
The decision to end the affair was mutual.
"I wasn't maintaining the values and the lifestyle that I needed to," Stanley said.
When they parted, Stanley said, he gave Morrison a disc of about a half a dozen explicit photos he had taken of her at his Nashville apartment. Stanley said he was not in any of the photos.
"I gave them to her just to show her I wasn't going to do anything with them. I'd forgotten about them," he said.
But he was reminded through text messages sent by Morrison's boyfriend, Joel Watts, who threatened to blackmail him with the photos.
"I knew I was in over my head," he said.
Before going to his wife, Stanley reported Watts to the TBI.
"What he was doing was wrong. What I had done was wrong, and it needed to stop, and it needed to stop then," he said.
Within 48 hours, Watts was arrested and confessed to felony facilitation of extortion. A day later, Stanley confessed his affair to his wife.
"First question she asked was did I love her, and I said no," he said.
Their marriage did not survive Stanley's infidelity, and pressure for him to resign from the senate mounted.
"When I did resign from the senate, I had no professional career," he said. "I had no political career, so life went down to zero."
Now, Stanley is ready for the public to hear what he says is the whole story.
"There was a whole lot more that happened before, during and after the affair, with the extortion and the aftermath, than people read in the paper," he said.
Morrison has denied any involvement in the extortion attempt and was never charged.
"I'm not a bad person, extortionist (or) wild woman on the hunt for me," she said in a 2009 interview. "I'm a normal girl."
But in Watts' written plea agreement, the claims the idea to use the photos as weapons of extortion came from McKensie Morrison. Stanley says text messages - revealed only in his book - lead him to believe Morrison and Watts were working together.
"Joel Watts is a deranged person to say the least," he said. "I think McKenzie is too - to a certain extent - a very troubled young lady."
Today, Stanley is political editor of The Christian Post, an online publication. He has no desire to return to politics, and is dating again.
"Someone that is really just a very Godly person that I've developed an incredible friendship with," he said.
Stanley said he is trying to make the best of a new life he never imagined, and living with regrets.
"What I was doing was not so much hypocritical as it was sinful. I mean it was wrong. It's wrong any way you cut it," he said. "We're all tempted in some area of our life. We just have to figure out how to deal with that."
Stanley's book, "The Extortion of Forgiveness," will be released early next year.
Morrison did not respond to Action News 5's requests to talk about the book. Meanwhile, Joel Watts is serving one year probation for his guilty plea. Action News 5 has not been able to reach him for comment.