Jill Kelley, woman at centre of Petraeus scandal, speaks out

Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who inadvertently exposed an affair between former CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer, has finally broken her silence in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Nearly three months after Petraeus stepped down, Kelley, 37, spoke to Washington bureau chief Howard Kurtz, calling the situation “very sad” and saying that the media spotlight has been tough on her family, which includes three young children.

However, Kelley gave few details on the contents of the emails that put her in the public spotlight in the first place. Of those emails, Kelley tells Kurtz that they didn’t tell her to stay away from Petraeus, as has been reported. Instead, she describes the emails as containing: “blackmail, extortion, threats.”

To back up and give the short version of the events: Kelley, the wife of a wealthy Tampa surgeon, did charity work for military families and was friends with the Petraeus family and other high-ranking military officers. When she received threatening emails from an unknown account she reported these emails to a FBI agent, who was also a family friend. An investigation showed that the emails were coming from Paula Broadwell, the biographer and former military reserve officer who spent time with Petraeus in Afghanistan as she was working on his official biography: All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. In November, right after President Barack Obama was elected for a second term, it was also revealed that Petraeus was having an extramarital affair with Broadwell. He had since retired from the military and became CIA director. Petraeus stepped down from that post after news of the affair broke.

In the interview with Kurtz, Kelley says that she never met Broadwell and didn’t even know of the biography she had recently published about the former general.

Kelley uses the interview to talk about the effect the story had on her family, noting one moment during her seven-year-old daughter’s birthday celebration: “It was devastating,” Kelley says in the interview. “To have your privacy invaded is truly–there are no words to describe it. Instead of enjoying a family birthday party, I had paparazzi storming my front lawn, pushing down the door. There are no words to describe the panic and fear at that moment.”

Initially, there was speculation that Broadwell could face charges as a result of the investigation. In December, Florida federal prosecutors said no charges were forthcoming.

There is, however, an ongoing investigation into hundreds of additional emails found on Kelley’s account that were sent to Gen. John Allen when he was commander of the Afghanistan war was in Kabul. Allen’s promotion to NATO commander remains on hold while that investigation continues.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.