GOP Senate candidate Eric Greitens criticized for ‘RINO hunting’ campaign ad

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Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, a Republican Senate candidate, is widely criticized after he released a campaign ad on Monday that shows him claiming to stalk members of his own party.

“Today we’re going RINO hunting,” Greitens announces in the video, using the acronym for the derisive phrase “Republicans in Name Only.”

In the ad, Greitens stands in front of a house with a team of others dressed in tactical gear and whispers, “The RINO feeds on corruption and is scarred with the stripes of cowardice.”

The tactical team then opens the door, detonates smoke bombs inside and rushes through with their weapons drawn.

“Join the MAGA team. Get a RINO hunting license,” says Greitens, standing in a seemingly empty house surrounded by smoke. “There is no bagging limit, no tagging limit and there is no ‘t expire – until we save our country.”

The announcement was posted Monday morning on various social media accounts belonging to Greitens and his Senate campaign.

Greitens’ ex-wife accuses him of domestic violence in court documents

The video was removed from Facebook “for violating our policies prohibiting violence and incitement,” according to Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone, but the video stayed on Twitter and YouTube from Monday afternoon.

“While this video does not violate our Community Guidelines, it does not monetize or function as an advertisement,” YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said.

About four hours after Greitens posted the video, Twitter placed a warning label on the tweet, saying it “violated Twitter’s rules on abusive behavior.” However, Twitter left the video with a message that the company “has determined that it may be in the public interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

The announcement comes amid a wave of political violence and threats against officials, as well as a general environment of vitriol within conservative circles among those who believe former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged and those in the GOP who have spoken against those claims.

Last year, The Washington Post tracked how election administrators in at least 17 states received threats of violence in the months following the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, often sparked directly by comments from Trump.

On Sunday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) shared that his wife had received a letter in the mail threatening to execute his family, including their 5-month-old baby. Kinzinger is one of 10 Republicans who broke with their party last year and voted to impeach Trump, and has since been criticized by Trump and his allies as a “RINO”.

Kinzinger also drew vitriol from Republican voters and members of his own party for being one of two GOP lawmakers to serve on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

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There’s violence in the future, I’ll tell you that,” Kinzinger said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, speaking about the death threats he and others have received. “And until we know how to tell people the truth, we can’t expect anything else.”

Greitens’ ad campaign also comes after high-profile mass shootings, including at a grocery store in Buffalo on May 14, where 10 people were killed, and in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed at gunpoint. Robb Elementary School on May 24. These and other shootings have sparked nationwide protests against gun violence and sparked bipartisan conversations in Congress about gun safety legislation.

The announcement was quickly criticized by those who warned that Greitens’ video could lead to real-world violence.

“It’s sociopathic” tweeted Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.). “You’re going to get someone killed.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison called the video “radical… extreme… unbalanced.” Former Congressman Joe Walsh, who quit the Republican Party over his criticism of Trump, said he was not surprised by the announcement and called out those in the GOP who still supported Trump.

“To any Republicans today who are considering criticizing this ad: You can’t criticize this and still support Trump,” Walsh tweeted. “There is NO difference between Eric Greitens and Donald Trump. In fact, your loose embrace of Trump led directly to Greitens, and [Marjorie Taylor] Greene, and [Lauren] Boebert, and…”

Others pointed to Greitens’ own history of violence. A former Navy SEAL, he was accused by his ex-wife of domestic violence, including physical abuse of their children. He denied these allegations.

Greitens resigned as governor of Missouri in 2018 in disgrace after an affair with a former hairstylist that included allegations of abuse and blackmail. He launched his campaign for the Senate last year after Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced he would retire at the end of his term.

Representatives from the Republican Party, the Republican National Senate Committee and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not respond to requests for comment.

Cristiano Lima and Rosalind Helderman contributed to this report.

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