WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — Facebook on Monday removed a campaign video of Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Greitens brandishing a shotgun and stating that he is targeting RINO or Republicans in name only.
In the ad, Greitens, a former governor of Missouri who retired in disgrace in 2018, is surrounded by a tactical unit outside his house on a tree-lined street as he whispers, “RINO feeds on corruption and is marked with stripes of cowardice. ”, using a term popularized by former President Donald Trump and his allies to deride moderate or establishment Republicans.
An armed task force breaks in through the front door and throws what looks like a stun grenade inside. Greitens enters through the smoke into an empty living room and says, “Join the MAGA team. Obtain a RINO hunting permit. No bag limits, no tag limits, and they won’t expire until we save our country.”
Facebook said the video was taken down “for violating our policy against violence and incitement.” Twitter said Greitens’ post violated its policy on offensive behavior, but said it was leaving it because it was in the “public interest” that the tweet was viewable. The company’s actions prevented further distribution of the publication.
The video comes at a time when violence in politics has been resurrected following mass shootings and death threats against government officials. Two weeks ago, a man with a gun, knife and zip ties was arrested outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after threatening to kill the judge. Around the same time, a gunman killed a retired Wisconsin district judge before shooting himself and had a list that included the names of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
On Sunday, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans on the House Committee to Investigate the Jan. child”.
Greitens is among the Republican candidates in the highly competitive Aug. 2 primary to fill the seat vacated by outgoing GOP Senator Roy Blunt. The provocative new ad comes as Greitens hopes to improve his standing in the polls, shake up a sluggish fundraiser and drop graphic domestic violence allegations made in sworn statements filed by his ex-wife in March in their child custody case.
Sheena Greitens alleged that Eric Greitens physically abused her and one of their sons while exhibiting such “erratic and coercive behavior” that steps were taken to limit his access to firearms, court documents say.
The former governor vehemently denied the allegations, but they haunted him during the campaign. He resigned in 2018 amid criminal investigations and after he was accused of having an extramarital affair with his hairdresser and taking a compromising photo of her to keep her from talking about it.
Helen Wade, Sheena Greitens’ lawyer, told The Kansas City Star she would “absolutely” use the new campaign video in the couple’s legal case.
“This is out of line,” Wade told the newspaper, indicating that she would file court papers to make the video evidence in the case.
Republican Caleb Rowden, Missouri Senate Majority Leader, tweeted, “We have reached out to the Missouri Highway Patrol and hope former Gov. Greitens finds the help he needs. Anyone with multiple allegations of abuse of women and children should probably stay away from this rhetoric.”
Other candidates in the Senate race also condemned the video.
Republican Senator Dave Schatz called it “completely irresponsible.”
“That’s why I’m running. It’s time to restore sanity and abandon this nonsense. Missouri deserves better,” Schatz tweeted.
Democratic Senate candidate Lucas Koons tweeted that “terrorists, child abusers and criminals” like Greitens “shouldn’t even be able to get guns.”
“Help me defeat this guy in November and I will protect our families from criminals like him,” Koons said.
The Greitens campaign rejected the outrage caused by the new advertisement.
“If someone does not understand this metaphor, they are either lying or stupid,” campaign manager Dylan Johnson said in a statement.
The firestorm engulfing Greitens follows a well-established scenario that has helped other Republican candidates boost their reputation: make an inflammatory statement or advertisement, wait for a backlash, and then cite the backlash in an attempt to raise money from grassroots donors online. In the case of Greitens, the actions taken by the social media giants could prove to be another boon, fueling the resentment of big tech companies that is increasingly running through the Republican Party.
Once a swing state, Missouri has become a more robust Republican state in recent years. But the Senate race is drawing national attention nonetheless because some in the GOP establishment are concerned that if Greitens wins the primary, he will be vulnerable to a Democrat in November. The Senate is evenly divided, the Republican Party cannot afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.