Facebook: American politician’s “RINO hunt” video violates standards

US Senate candidate from Missouri, Eric Greitens, released an ominous campaign ad, brandishing a shotgun and declaring “RINO hunting season”. Video / Eric Greitens

Facebook deleted a campaign video of Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Eric Greitens on Monday while Twitter blocked it from being shared because the ad showed the Republican brandishing a shotgun and saying he was hunting RINOs, or Republicans in name only.

In the video, Greitens identifies himself as a Navy SEAL and says he’s going to hunt RINO. “The RINO feeds on corruption and is scarred with the scratches of cowardice,” he whispers outside a house on a tree-lined street before a tactical unit bursts through a door and throws what appears be flash grenades inside.

Greitens, a former Missouri governor who resigned in disgrace in 2018, walks into an empty living room through the smoke and says, “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting license. There’s no limit to bagging, no tagging limit and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

The video comes at a time of increased focus on gun violence and violence in politics following fatal shootings and threats against government officials. Two weeks ago, a man carrying a gun, knife and zip ties was arrested near the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after threatening to kill the judge.

On Sunday, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans serving on the congressional committee investigating the origins of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, said he recently received a letter at his home threatening “to execute myself, as well as my wife and 5 month old child.”

“We’ve never seen or had anything like it. He was sent from the area,” Kinzinger, of Illinois, told ABC News, adding that he was not concerned for his personal safety but for his family. Kinzinger, who is not running for office, is a moderate Republican, a part of the GOP often maligned as a RINO by hardline conservatives and Donald Trump supporters.

Eric Greitens, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, in a campaign video ad that shows him brandishing a shotgun.
Eric Greitens, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, in a campaign video ad that shows him brandishing a shotgun.

Facebook said in a statement Monday that the video was removed “for violating our policies prohibiting violence and incitement.” Twitter said Greitens’ post violated its abusive behavior rules, but said it was leaving it because it was in the “public interest” for the tweet to be seen. The company’s decision prevented the message from being shared.

Greitens’ campaign did not address the actions taken by the two social media companies.

“If someone doesn’t understand the metaphor, they’re either lying or being stupid,” campaign manager Dylan Johnson said in a brief emailed statement.

The ad came at a watershed moment for Greitens’ Republican primary campaign to succeed retired GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, as a crowded field of suitors vie for the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. The primary is August 2.

It is the latest dramatic move by Greitens as he seeks to shake up a lackluster fundraising and move past graphic allegations of domestic violence made in March in a sworn affidavit filed by his ex-wife in March in the the former couple’s child custody case.

It also follows a well-worn playbook that has helped other Republican candidates improve their stance: make a provocative statement or announcement, wait for a backlash to develop, then cite the backlash while trying to raise money from from local donors online. In the case of Greitens, the measures taken by the social media giants could prove to be an additional boon. Conservatives have railed against social media companies in recent years, arguing that they aggressively censor right-wing voices. (Such actions are often taken because the statements violate company guidelines.)

Greitens was dogged by scandal.  Photo/PA
Greitens was dogged by scandal. Photo/PA

Greitens resigned as governor of Missouri in 2018 amid a scandal involving charges of blackmail, servitude and sexual assault. Sheena Greitens alleged that at the time, Eric Greitens was physically abusing her and one of their sons, while exhibiting such “unstable and coercive behavior” that steps were taken to limit his access to firearms, according to court documents.

Greitens vehemently denied the allegations. But they continued to harass him during the election campaign.

Helen Wade, Sheena Greitens’ attorney, told the Kansas City Star she would “absolutely” use the video in the couple’s ongoing lawsuit.

“It’s outdated,” Wade told the newspaper while indicating that she would file court documents to make the video an exhibit in the case.

Other candidates running for the Senate also condemned the video.

Republican Senator Dave Schatz called the video “completely irresponsible.”

“That’s why I’m running. It’s time to restore sanity and cast off this nonsense. Missouri deserves better,” Schatz said in a tweet.

Democrat Lucas Kunce, meanwhile, tweeted that “terrorists, child molesters and criminals ‘like Greitens’ shouldn’t even be able to get a gun.”

“Help me beat this guy in November, and I’ll protect our families from criminals like him,” Kunce said.

Once a swing state, Missouri has become more reliably Republican in recent years. But the race is nonetheless garnering national attention as some members of the GOP establishment worry that with the latest abuse allegations, as well as his previous scandals, Greitens could be vulnerable against a Democrat.

And with the Senate evenly divided, the GOP cannot afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.

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