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Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens put out a video Monday that showed him and a group of men in tactical gear with guns hunting Republicans who they do not deem adequately conservative, ramping up the war-like messaging of his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens put out a video Monday that showed him and a group of men in tactical gear with guns hunting Republicans who they do not deem adequately conservative, ramping up the war-like messaging of his campaign for U.S. Senate. (Screenshot from Twitter video)

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens put out a video Monday that showed him and a group of men in tactical gear with guns hunting Republicans who they do not deem adequately conservative, ramping up the warlike messaging of his campaign for U.S. Senate.

In the video Greitens, a Republican, carries a gun and identifies himself as a Navy SEAL. He says he’s hunting RINOs, an acronym that means “Republicans in name only.”

“Today, we’re going RINO hunting,” Greitens says in the video. “The RINO feeds on corruption and are marked by the stripes of cowardice.”

The video comes in the aftermath of two high-profile mass shootings and as Congress appears to be making progress on legislation to address gun violence. Last week, Republicans and Democrats agreed to a bipartisan framework on legislation to address mental health, school safety and make it more difficult for young people to get a gun.

U.S. Sen Roy Blunt, a retiring Missouri Republican, signed on to the framework. Greitens is running to replace him.

The ad shows Greitens with what appears to be a pump-action shotgun walking with a group of men wearing camouflage and helmets with the American flag. They break down the door to a house, throw a smoke bomb and storm into an empty room. Greitens then walks in and asks people to “join the MAGA crew” and get their “RINO hunting permits.”

MAGA is the acronym for former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” Trump has not yet endorsed in the Missouri primary.

“There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit and it doesn’t expire until we save our country,” Greitens says in the video.

His campaign did not immediately return a request for comment. It is unclear if the video was solely for fundraising purposes on Twitter or will be put on television.

Greitens is no longer a member of the Navy SEALs, though he served with them in the early 2000s. He was blocked from returning to the SEALs in 2019, and approved instead to return to the Navy Reserves.

The ad was removed from Facebook Monday. Twitter added a note to the video stating that it violates the site’s rules about abusive behavior, but will remain up because “it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

Greitens is currently the front-runner in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate as he tries to revive his political career after being forced to resign amid a bevy of scandals that included allegations that he sexually abused and blackmailed a woman with whom he was having an affair.

His opponents in the Senate primary immediately denounced the ad. U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler said the “only RINO featured in Eric Greitens’ web video was himself” and made references to his allegations of sexual abuse.

“Eric Greitens is an abuser, a blackmailer, and less than ten years ago — a Democrat,” Hartzler said. “There is no basement too low for him to cover up his past Obama support and blindfold Missourians into believing he represents their values.”

U.S. Rep. Billy Long, a Republican who represents the Springfield area, said the ad was “very distasteful.” But Long still labeled two of his primary opponents as RINOs.

“(Missouri Attorney General Eric) Schmitt nor Hartzler can beat him, but he may be able to beat himself,” Long said in a text message. “The way to beat RINOs like Schmitt and Hartzler is at the ballot box.”

Schmitt’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lucas Kunce, who is running for the Democratic Senate nomination, said Greitens “shouldn’t even be able to get a weapon.”

In his effort to win back support in the Republican primary, Greitens has painted himself as a victim of the political establishment.

He has cast the uproar over testimony that he bound his mistress to exercise equipment in his basement, took a nude photo of her, called her a derogatory term and forced her to perform oral sex on him as a backlash to his policies in the year and a half that he served as governor.

In March, Greitens’ ex-wife accused him of physically and emotionally abusing her and their children in sworn testimony as part of a dispute over their child custody arrangement.

The Republican establishment has said it believes Greitens will be a political vulnerability for the party if he wins the primary. Greitens has made “RINOs” a theme of his campaign; earlier this month he launched a “no mo RINOs” tour where he traveled across the state to campaign. At a stop in Hannibal and Bowling Green, according to a video posted on Twitter, Greitens said his campaign was an attempt to take the country back from “RINOs.”

“The problem is the RINOs that keep stabbing real patriots in the back and kept stabbing President Trump in the back,” he said at one event. “We have announced a great wake-up call that we’re taking our country back, we’re taking it back from the left, we’re taking it back from the mainstream media and we’re taking it back from the RINOs.”

The video is not the first time Greitens has advocated for violence against his political opponents in a campaign ad. Earlier this year he appeared in a video with Donald Trump Jr. where the two fired weapons at a shooting range and said “liberals beware.”

Greitens' gubernatorial candidacy also featured ads with him firing weapons. In one, he sat and fired a machine gun into a lake.

©2022 McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Visit mcclatchydc.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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