The 2022 election cycle hasn’t been kind to Eric Greitens.
Once the governor of Missouri, Greitens had to step down in 2018 after a scandal involving allegations of sexual misconduct. However, when he threw his hat in the ring to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blount last March, he was the prohibitive favorite despite misgivings about his checkered history.
Then, this spring, Greitens’ ex-wife said in a court filing that he abused her and their children — and that she had the photos to prove it, according to CNN. While he’s remained ahead in the polls, that dimmed hopes for his campaign that this would be a runaway victory for one of Missouri’s highest-profile politicians.
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Given his tenuous lead, you would assume Greitens would lower the temperature a bit. Sure, nobody likes a milquetoast Republican, but no less than Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley — certainly not the shrinking-violet, Mitt Romney type of air-quotes “conservative” — has called for Greitens to abandon the race and implied in a Twitter post that the former governor “belong[s] in handcuffs, not the United States Senate.”
Instead, what Greitens decided to do was release an ad roundly condemned by both sides of the aisle in which he goes “RINO hunting” with a cadre of men dressed as combat troops, all with guns.
“I’m Eric Greitens, Navy SEAL,” he begins, walking down a suburban street with a shotgun. “Today, we’re going RINO hunting.”
Then he pumps the shotgun, just so you know that He. Means. Business.
The next shot shows him and his team of “SEALs” (I don’t think the Navy loaned Greitens some Special Forces troops to shoot a campaign ad, even if he is a vet, so I’m guessing these were cosplay troops) outside the door of a home, guns out, ready to raid the domicile.
Should Eric Greitens be the GOP nominee for Senate in Missouri?
Yes: 75% (6 Votes)
No: 25% (2 Votes)
“The RINO feeds on corruption and he is marked by the stripes of cowardice,” Greitens whispers in a faux nature-documentary voice.
Then, one of the troops beats down the door. Smoke grenades are tossed in. After the troops case the joint (presumably to assure it’s RINO-free) Greitens saunters in and says: “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”
In the least shocking development of the 2022 campaign so far, Facebook — now known as Meta — took down the ad because it violated policies “prohibiting violence and incitement,” the company said, according to Fox Business.
“Facebook CENSORED our new ad calling out the weak RINOs,” Greitens said in a subsequent Facebook post. “When I get to the US Senate, we are taking on Big Tech.”
Twitter, somewhat surprisingly, allowed the spot to remain up, but still took action against it.
Greitens post was slapped with a warning label saying the ad, which was paid for by Greitens’ campaign, “violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior.” However, it would be allowed to remain because “it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
We are sick and tired of the Republicans in Name Only surrendering to Joe Biden & the radical Left.
Order your RINO Hunting Permit today! pic.twitter.com/XLMdJnAzSK
— Eric Greitens (@EricGreitens) June 20, 2022
On one hand, this ad is remarkably silly stuff. While you may be able to grasp from my tone that I’m not supporting Greitens in the primary, the spot caused far more laughter than it did hand-wringing on this side of the computer. (The part where he growls about “join[ing] the MAGA crew” in a voice no serious adult should ever adopt was particularly risible.)
Once the laughter subsided, however, the cringe set in.
Not only is Greitens a man credibly accused of violence at least twice — which should have been enough to dissuade him from filming an ad where he hunts down people with firearms and a unit of troops merely for being “RINOs,” no matter how farcical the ad was — it comes as mounting public intimidation and threats against Supreme Court justices almost ended with one dead.
Less than two weeks ago, a man was arrested near the house of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and charged with attempted murder after he reportedly plotted to murder the judge because of the leak of a draft opinion from the court that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
That planned attempt against Kavanaugh’s life came after pro-abortion groups like Ruth Sent Us enthusiastically and repeatedly shared Kavanaugh’s address, along with those of the other Republican-appointed justices, on social media — you know, so that people could just protest there, wink wink.
It also came one day after GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — arguably the second-biggest RINO in Congress and one of two Republicans on the Democrats’ Jan. 6 committee — made headlines for sharing a death threat he received on Twitter.
Here is the letter. Addressed to my wife, sent to my home, threatening the life of my family. The Darkness is spreading courtesy of cowardly leaders fearful of truth. Is the what you want @GOP? Pastors?
— Adam Kinzinger🇺🇦🇺🇸✌️ (@AdamKinzinger) June 19, 2022
Kinzinger may be a general-issue irritant of the highest order, one of those Republicans who make a name for themselves in the mainstream media by loudly insisting to anyone who’ll listen that he’s Not That Kind of Conservative™ and that the rest of the party has gone over to the dark side. That said, threatening him with death is beyond inexcusable and whoever sent the letter (assuming its authentic) ought to spend a decent chunk of the 2020s rotting in a federal penitentiary.
Furthermore, Greitens‘ decision to go ahead with the release of a “RINO-hunter”-themed ad one day after Kinzinger’s tweet is an astronomic failure to read the room, almost as if the candidate deliberately set out to validate Kinzinger’s asinine claim that the responsibility for this rot all lies at the feet of the Republican Party.
(That might have been what the liberals at Twitter had in mind when they wrote that “it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.)
And, obviously, the establishment media jumped on the opportunity to extrapolate this to all conservatives. A brief sample:
Washington Post: “The ad comes amid a spate of political violence and threats against public officials, as well as a general environment of vitriol within conservative circles between those who believe former president Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged and those in the GOP who have spoken out against those claims.”
NPR: “The ad was posted to social media on Monday morning. It was soon criticized by many on the left — and some on the right — for its use of language and visuals seeming to support violence against political opponents … ‘You’re a very bad man,’ wrote Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Illinois Republican whose criticism of Donald Trump has netted him both the ‘RINO’ label and threats of violence, including a recent death threat that he shared on Twitter just yesterday.”
The New York Times: “The use of violent rhetoric has steadily increased in Republican circles in recent months as threats and aggressive imagery have become more commonplace in community meeting rooms, congressional offices and on the campaign trail. While much of the violent speech and image-making by Republicans has been aimed at Democrats, some of it, as in Mr. Greitens’s ad, has been focused on fellow party members thought to be insufficiently conservative.”
Almost all of this febrile rhetoric, of course, is hyperbolic and unsupported — but it’s fair to ask why Greitens would be so unwise as to leave the window open for all manner of liberal media charlatans to tar him and the rest of the party like this.
The Missouri GOP, as NPR has noted, fears that Greitens simply can’t win the race even in a deep-red state. This is why. With any other candidate, the seat would be considered a Republican lock in a red-wave year.
Greitens’ improvident campaign ad almost certainly won’t cost lives, liberal media handwringing notwithstanding. But it should cost him his shot at the seat.
While conservatives oughtn’t parrot the hyperbolic, predictable hype over the “RINO hunter” spot, they also don’t have to give a serially irresponsible man their vote or their support.
There are 21 Republicans in the primary field to replace Sen. Blount. Plenty of them aren’t RINOs — and 20 out of 21 of them didn’t make the tactical blunder of believing an ad like this would help their cause.