Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said Tuesday that he will return all gifts from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and indicated for the first time that he was not aware of everything that the Star Scientific executive had given to his family.
McDonnell (R) made the promise during a radio interview as part of his new strategy to try to win back Virginians who have lost faith in him over a scandal involving luxury gifts and loans.
McDonnell announced that he was returning the gifts one week after apologizing for the scandal and disclosing that he had repaid $120,000 in loans that Williams provided: $70,000 to a real estate company owned by the governor and his sister and $50,000 to first lady Maureen McDonnell. (Related: What was given to the McDonnells )
McDonnell’s remarks on WTOP radio’s “Ask the Governor” program were his first about the gifts and loans since last week’s written announcement, issued as he was en route to Afghanistan to visit Virginia troops. He struck a tone Tuesday that was by turns contrite and defiant — one moment vowing to “restore trust with the people of Virginia,” the next noting that his Democratic predecessors had also received gifts. He said he was trying to regain the commonwealth’s faith but seemed reluctant at times to concede that there had been anything inappropriate in his interactions with Williams that would have caused him to lose it.