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Greitens slammed for ‘RINO hunting’ campaign ad

A still from Eric Greitens's campaign ad. (Greitens for U.S. Senate)

Former Missouri governor Eric Greitens, a Republican candidate for Senate, is being widely criticized after releasing a campaign ad Monday that shows him pretending to hunt down members of his own party.

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

In the ad, Greitens stands outside a home with a team of others dressed in tactical gear and whispers: “The RINO feeds on corruption and is marked by the stripes of cowardice.”

The tactical team then busts open the door, detonates smoke bombs inside and storms through with their guns drawn.

“Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit,” Greitens says, standing inside an apparently empty house surrounded by smoke. “There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit and it doesn’t expire — until we save our country.”

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

Greitens's 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 spokesman Andy Stone, but the video remained on Twitter and YouTube as of early Monday afternoon.

“While this video does not violate our Community Guidelines, it is not monetizing nor running as an ad,” YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said.

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

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.

The Washington Post last year tracked how election administrators in at least 17 states received threats of violence in the months after the Jan. 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 has also drawn 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 is violence in the future, I’m going to tell you,” Kinzinger said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, speaking about the death threats he and others have received. “And until we get a grip on telling people the truth, we can’t expect any differently.”

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

The ad was swiftly criticized by those who warned that Greitens’s video could lead to real-world violence.

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

The Democratic National Committee’s chairman, Jaime Harrison, called the video “radical.. extreme... unhinged.” Former congressman Joe Walsh, who left the Republican Party over his criticisms of Trump, said he was not surprised by the ad and called out those in the GOP who still supported Trump.

“To every Republican today who’s thinking about criticizing this ad: You cannot criticize this & still support Trump,” Walsh tweeted. “There’s ZERO difference between Eric Greitens & Donald Trump. In fact, your cowardly embrace of Trump directly led to Greitens, and [Marjorie Taylor] Greene, and [Lauren] Boebert, and…”

Others pointed out Greitens’s own history of violence. A former Navy SEAL, he has been accused by his ex-wife of domestic violence, including physical violence toward their children. He has denied those allegations.

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

Representatives for the Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial 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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