TAMPA — Jill Kelley, the woman who unwittingly triggered a scandal that led former CIA director David Petraeus to quit, ended a long silence Tuesday, excoriating the news media and Petraeus' former mistress for upending her family's life.
In an interview with the Daily Beast and an opinion piece in the Washington Post, the Tampa socialite took issue with everything from how she was portrayed as a "romantic rival" for Petraeus' affections to journalists staking out her Bayshore Boulevard home.
The public comments are Kelley's first since the scandal broke in November.
"As much as I appreciate that they want to be the first one to come out with a headline, regardless of whether they did any fact-checking, they have to consider the impact they have on our life and our children's lives," Kelley told the Daily Beast. "Just because it's repeated doesn't make it true. It was living a nightmare."
What was most notable about the Daily Beast interview was Kelley's version of anonymous emails she received from biographer Paula Broadwell, whose affair with Petraeus was uncovered after Kelley reported the messages to a friend at the FBI.
Kelley, 37, said she didn't even see the first email sent by Broadwell, whom Kelley said she had never met. Scott Kelley, 46, her husband, saw it in an email account they shared. Jill Kelley said she was "terrified" after he told her about it.
In the emails "there was blackmail, extortion, threats," Kelley told the Daily Beast. But she declined a request to allow a reporter to see them.
"I knew I was being stalked," Kelley said during a two-hour interview in Washington, D.C.
She also said the emails did not warn her away from Petraeus, as has been widely reported.
A spokesman for Broadwell said the Justice Department did not file charges against Broadwell, thus making a "bold statement" that Kelley's allegations about the emails are false.
Kelley has not responded to numerous requests for comment made by the Tampa Bay Times. An email from the office of her spokesman said, "For their privacy, no interviews will be accepted."
Kelley also denied to the Daily Beast having sent inappropriate emails to Gen. John Allen, former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base.
A Pentagon investigation Tuesday cleared Allen of wrongdoing.
Reports, including several in the Times, about the Kelleys' financial difficulties drew some of her harshest comments. Kelley, who said it was untrue that she and her husband are having financial difficulties, said the press "made it look like I'm throwing parties yet I'm broke, made it look like we're deadbeats. It's offensive."
Court records show several lawsuits have been filed against the Kelleys, including suits related to credit card defaults and a foreclosure action by Regions Bank, which said the Kelleys owe the bank $1.7 million and have not made a mortgage payment on their home since 2009. The Kelleys said bank officials told them to stop making payments to qualify for a loan modification.
Asked what she wanted people to know about her, Kelley told the Daily Beast: "I'm a dedicated mother, a loving wife. We have a very happy, close family. I support the troops. I take pride in feeding the homeless in our community."
The Daily Beast did not report whether Kelley planned to hold any parties or functions at her home this Saturday during the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. In one now-famous photo, the Kelleys posed with Petraeus on their property during Gasparilla.
Numerous homes in the Kelleys' neighborhood are displaying festive Gasparilla flags. The Kelleys' house was unadorned Tuesday.
A lone photographer paced the alley behind their home.
William R. Levesque can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3432.