JEFFERSON CITY — Republican US Senate candidate Eric Greitens recycled an inflammatory campaign tactic he used in his successful 2016 bid to become Missouri governor, unveiling a new video Monday in which he brandishes a shotgun and declares he is on the hunt for so-called RINOS, or Republicans in name only.
The former Navy SEAL, who is attempting a political comeback after quitting as the state’s chief executive in 2018, tells viewers in the video, “Today, we’re going RINO hunting” and offers contributors “RINO hunting permits.”
Facebook later Monday removed the video for violating “policies prohibiting violence and incitement. Twitter said the video violated its rules about abusive behavior but said it was leaving it up because it was in the “public’s interest” for the tweet to be viewable.
Greitens frequently attacks Republican leaders for being corrupt and cowardly — and insufficiently supportive of Donald Trump, the former president.
In 2016, the subject was not other Republicans but the Islamic State militant group. At the time, he sold mock IS “hunting permits” to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign.
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In the latest version, Greitens and his long gun walk toward a home, while soldiers in combat uniforms join him.
The combat team breaks down the door of the home, coughs in a stun grenade and enters the front room.
“Join the MAGA crew, get a RINO hunting permit,” Greitens announces inside the smoke-filled house.
“There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”
Viewers of the 38-second video are then directed to go to Greitens’ campaign website, where a $25 donation will get a sticker with the “RINO hunting permit” design shown in the video.
Greitens, who is attempting to win Trump’s endorsement before the August primary election, received harsh criticism for the video from other elected officials.
Missouri Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who is also seeking the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Roy Blunt, called the ad “completely irresponsible.”
“That’s why I’m running. It’s time to restore sanity and reject this nonsense. Missouri deserves better,” Schatz said on Twitter Monday.
Another candidate, US Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who represents Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, also criticized Greitens.
“Eric Greitens is an abuser, a blackmailer, and less than ten years ago — a Democrat. There is no basement too low for him to cover up his past Obama support & blindfold Missourians into believing he represents their values from him,” she wrote on Twitter.
US Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, said on Twitter that the video was “sociopathic.”
Castro, who has been critical of the gun lobby, added that Greitens was “going to get someone killed.”
Sen. Caleb Rowden, the Republican floor leader in the Missouri, reported the video and a tweet from an unofficial Greitens campaign account to state police officials.
“We have been in contact with the Missouri Highway Patrol and hope that former Gov. Greitens finds the help he needs. Anyone with multiple accusations of abuse toward women and children should probably steer clear of this rhetoric,” Rowden tweeted.
Earlier this year, Greitens was accused by his ex-wife, Sheena, of being physically violent with her and her children.
Those allegations resulted in numerous calls for Greitens drop out, including one from Republican US Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Sheena Greitens’ attorney, Helen Wade, told the Kansas City Star on Monday that she planned to use the campaign video in the former first couple’s ongoing child custody battle.
In 2015, Greitens’ former hairdresser claimed Greitens took a photo of her partly nude without her consent and threatened to use it against her if she revealed their affair.
The woman also alleged that Greitens coerced her into sexual activity several times, insisting in one encounter that she gave him oral sex while she was crying and that he struck or shoved her violently on other occasions.
Greitens’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The ad comes as the Senate is considering a package of legislation aimed at addressing gun violence in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and New York.
His opponents are also putting guns and the Second Amendment front and center in their campaigns as they run in a state that has some of the nation’s loosest gun laws.
Hartzler earlier sat out a mail piece to her constituents featuring her holding a rifle and shooting a pistol at a firing range.
Her latest ad, however, focuses more on Greitens, whom Hartzler calls to join.
St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey’s campaign for the seat is based largely on him brandishing a rifle at protesters who were walking past his Central West End mansion.
Other candidates seeking the GOP nomination include Attorney General Eric Schmitt and US Rep. Billy Long of Springfield.
Updated at 2:30 pm Monday, June 20.