Former Missouri governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Eric Greitens is leaning into the widespread criticism and complaints about his bizarre “RINO hunter” campaign ad that was released on Monday, accusing “Big Tech” of censorship and “meddling” in the state’s Republican primary after Facebook pulled down the ad for violating the platform’s rules regarding “violence and incitement”.
Greitens appeared on a number of conservative talk shows in Missouri today defending the ad and saying that the criticism is nothing more than “a tremendous amount of faux outrage from leftists and RINOs”; a charge that apparently includes one of the most influential conservative organizations in the state as well as most of his Senate primary opponents.
The Eagle Forum PAC, the political action committee launched by the late Phyllis Schlafly, denounced the video as “deeply disturbing.”
“Advocating violence is a disqualifier for public office,” said chairwoman Anne Schlafly Cori. “Eric Greitens is not fit to serve the voters of Missouri.”
The Missouri State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, which has endorsed Attorney General Eric Schmitt in the crowded GOP primary, also criticized the ad.
“This deplorable video has no place in our political system and sends a dangerous message that it is somehow acceptable to kill those who have differing political beliefs,” the statement said.
Others denouncing the video were some of his GOP opponents, including U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Missouri Senate President Dave Schatz.
Schmitt’s campaign tweeted an eye-roll emoji.
The Republican Majority Leader in the state Senate also weighed in on the ad to say that he’d contacted the state Highway Patrol after receiving an online threat referencing the ad.
We have been in contact with the Missouri Highway Patrol and hope that former Gov Greitens finds the help he needs.
— Caleb Rowden (@calebrowden) June 20, 2022
The since deleted tweet from an account allegedly supportive of Greitens’ campaign tagged Rowden as well as Gov. Mike Parson and several state officials, saying ““we’ve got our permit and we’re coming for you.”
Is that a direct threat? Probably not, but given that Greitens’ ad features him and a squad of armed men breaking into a private residence in search of “RINOs” while the one-time Navy SEAL proclaims that there’s “no bagging limit, no tagging limit” for anyone who wants to join the “MAGA crew” and defend the country from anyone Greitens deems insufficiently devoted to making America great again, I can understand why Rowden was concerned by the tweet from the anonymous Twitter user.
Rowden didn’t limit his criticism of Greitens to social media. He also appeared on CNN today and told anchor Brianna Kielar that, in his opinion, the ad is just another indication of the former governor’s mentally instablity.
“Former Governor Greitens had been in a custody dispute in my home county of Boone County, he may be there even this week,” Rowden explained. “He’s accused of abusing his wife and kids. In my hometown where the court proceedings are happening, there are folks who don’t feel safe.”
Rowden then went on to explain how Greitens has a long history of troubling behavior.
“I think this is an ongoing record, ongoing pattern of just being mentally unstable,” he said. “This is just another in a long line of issues that the former governor has had. We wanted to make sure that we were serious about it. Some of the other rhetoric we got from followers is clearly out of bounds. and we want to take this seriously.”
Keilar then asked Rowden if he believed Greitens is a threat to hurt other people.
“I think he’s in the middle of his custody dispute with his ex-wife regarding potentially abusing her, potentially abusing his kids,” he said. “You know, I think that there’s any number of things that can come from that and I think it’s a serious thing for us to take seriously.”
Greitens campaign, meanwhile is trying to make the most out of all the attention, with the candidate hopping on social media to uh… accuse social media platforms of “meddling” in elections after Facebook removed the ad hours after it was first posted.
Big Tech is once again meddling in our elections and putting their thumb on the scale.
When I’m U.S. Senator, I will fight against the disgusting tech oligarchs from stealing any more elections.https://t.co/F7CfRG5uw3
— Eric Greitens (@EricGreitens) June 20, 2022
The ad has more than 3-million views as of Tuesday morning, so it’s hard to argue that Facebook’s removal of the ad has somehow silenced the candidate, especially since the video is still available on both Twitter and YouTube.
Greitens campaign manager said on Monday that “if anyone doesn’t get the metaphor, they are either lying or dumb,” but that fails to account for those who get the metaphor but still think the ad was in poor taste or just plain weird. It might have been one thing if Greitens was posed in a tree stand while looking for “RINOs”, but when he and his squad are shown breaking down the front door of what looks to be a quiet suburban house, the hunt takes on a very different character.
As I wrote yesterday, my initial impression after watching it wasn’t that Greitens was calling for his supporters to carry out acts of political violence against “RINOs”, but that he was putting his own authoritarian impulses on display.
Not every candidate who holds a gun in their campaign ad is a true defender of the Second Amendment, and when they’re boasting about carrying that gun to hunt down their fellow Republicans, I’d say that protecting or promoting the right of self-defense isn’t much of a concern for them at all.
Greitens is the aggressor in this ad. He’s not shown protecting himself against a violent home invader, but actually invading someone’s home. Are we supposed to be impressed because he’s holding a shotgun or (incorrectly) identifying himself as a Navy SEAL (he was once, but no more) before storming into a private residence looking for those suspected of disloyalty to the MAGA agenda?