In Ad, Shotgun-Toting Greitens Asks Voters to Go ‘RINO Hunting’


Eric Greitens, a Republican candidate for the United States Senate in Missouri, released a violent new political advertisement on Monday showing himself racking a shotgun and accompanying a team of men armed with assault rifles as they stormed — SWAT team-style — into a home in search of “RINOs,” or Republicans in name only.

“Join the MAGA crew,” Mr. Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, declares in the ad. “Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

The ad by Mr. Greitens was just the latest but perhaps most menacing in a long line of Republican campaign ads featuring firearms and seeking to equate hard-core conservatism with the use of deadly weapons.

During a hearing by the committee on Thursday, J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge widely respected by conservatives, suggested that Mr. Trump and his allies posed a “clear and present danger to American democracy.”

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.

On Sunday, Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and a member of the Jan. 6 committee, published a letter addressed to his wife from someone who had threatened to execute the couple.

By midafternoon on Monday, Twitter had hidden Mr. Greitens’ new ad behind a warning saying that it violated rules about “abusive behavior.” Facebook removed the ad altogether.

Mr. Greitens’s campaign made no apologies for it, however. “If anyone doesn’t get the metaphor, they are either lying or dumb,” said Dylan Johnson, the campaign manager.

The ad by Mr. Greitens, a former Missouri governor, comes as his campaign for Senate has stumbled following lurid allegations of blackmail, sexual misconduct and child abuse. In March, Mr. Greitens’s former wife, Sheena Greitens, accused him of abusive behavior, including an incident she recounted that loosened one of their son’s teeth. A number of Republicans, including Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, called on Mr. Greitens then to quit the race.

Mr. Greitens has sought an endorsement from Mr. Trump, so far without success. His campaign chair is Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Donald Trump Jr.

Experts have warned that violent rhetoric can often result in actual physical violence.

“When individuals feel more confident and legitimate in voicing violent sentiments, it can encourage others to feel more confident in making actual violence easier,” said Robert Pape, who studies political violence at the University of Chicago. “Unfortunately, this is a self- reinforcing spiral.”

Some Republicans criticized Mr. Greitens for posting the ad.

“Every Republican should denounce this sick and dangerous ad from Eric Greitens,” Barbara Comstock, a former Republican congresswoman from Virginia, said on Monday. “This is just a taste of the ‘clear and present danger’ that Judge Luttig talked about last week .”


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