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Greitens says 'we're going RINO hunting' in gun-toting ad and draws national criticism

Eric Greitens holding a shotgun flanked by men in battle gear.
Former governor and current U.S. Senate candidate hunts for RINOs, Republicans in name only, in his latest campaign ad.

The U.S. Senate candidate tweeted a dramatization of himself, cocking a shotgun and following men in combat uniforms who break down the door of a home. As he enters the home he invites supports to get a hunting permit for RINO's, a derogatory label for moderate Republicans. Backlash has accused the candidate of inciting political violence.

Eric Greitens, the former Missouri governor who resigned from office over sexual blackmail allegations, released a campaign ad for the U.S. Senate that mockingly suggests hunting down fellow Republicans.

The gun-toting commercial, where Greitens crashes into a home with a squad of men in camouflage and battle armor, drew swift condemnation from across the country. The ad features the use of tactical military gear and suggests, with a wink, taking violent action against Republicans who aren’t conservative enough.

One of his Republican primary rivals, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, said the ad is evidence that there is “no basement too low for him” — a sly reference to the scandal that led to his resignation from the governor’s office after accounts of him binding a woman in a basement and taking a photograph.

Eventually, Twitter added the following statement to the tweet where Greitens posted the video of his commercial: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible."

Under the Twitter's self-described public interest rule, tweets from public or elected officials — Greiten's currently holds no public office — remain on the social media site. But people can no longer retweet or share the tweet. And Twitter's algorithm no longer recommends the material.

Similarly, Facebook removed his post about the campaign commercial.

The ad opens by describing Greitens as, “Conservative. Outsider. Navy Seal.”

Then the Republican Senate candidate appears walking down a leafy street carrying a pump shotgun with extra ammunition strapped to the weapon and a pistol holstered on his right hip.

He passes a rusty mailbox labeled “THE RINO’s DEN.” RINO is a common slur conservatives attach to people they see as Republican in name only. Grinning, Greitens looks at the camera and says, “Today, we’re going RINO hunting.” He cocks the shotgun.

Then the video cuts to Greitens on the porch of a small home. Greitens gestures with his right hand while holding the shotgun in his left. He’s flanked on either side by men in combat gear and helmets. Their faces are mostly covered.

“The RINO,” Greitens whispers to the camera, “feeds on corruption and is marked by stripes of cowardice.”

Then one of the faux soldiers knocks in the door with a battering ram. A small explosion happens inside the home, as if a flash-bang grenade had been tossed in. The guys in battle gear storm in, weapons ready to shoot. In jeans and a khaki shirt, Greitens follows, emerging through the smoke-filled empty inside, takes off his wraparound sunglasses and talks to the camera. The grin is gone now.

“Join the MAGA crew,” he says. Then, closer to the camera, he continues, “Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit. No tagging limit. And it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

The screen goes dark. Then a card appears on the screen noting that Greitens for U.S. Senate paid for the aid and encourages people to go to his website for a RINO hunting permit. On the website, the campaign urges “Order your RINO Hunting Permit Today!” next to a donation button.

The tweet had been viewed more than a million times.

In the wake of recent mass shootings and a bipartisan agreement in Washington on greater gun restrictions, a flood of Twitter responses quickly called out the candidate for promoting political violence and posing a risk to democracy.

Others called Greitens a sociopath, said the ad promoted domestic terrorism and that the candidate should be banned from Twitter.

Greitens' opponents in the race quickly criticized the video.

Hartzler called Greitens a RINO, citing his previous political life as a Democrat.

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GOP Missouri Senate candidate Vickie Hartzler issued a statement condemning the Greitens ad

Twitter suspended Hartzler's Twitter account earlier this year for violating its rules against hateful content after Hartzler posted a tweet targeting transgender people.

Facebook removed the Eric Greitens video from its platform Monday, claiming it violated its policies of prohibiting incitement to violence. Greitens shot back immediately, saying he was being censored and when he's elected, he will go after "big tech."

In a message to the conservative website Gateway Pundit, Greitens defended the ad against "woke, weak RINOs (who) have surrendered to the radical Leftists at every turn. "

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions. Email me at lauraz@kcur.org and follow me on Twitter @laurazig.
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