COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The family of Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Eric Greitens has been subjected to “serious threats” in the days since he released a violent campaign video in which he declares he’s “hunting” RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only, the lawyer for his ex-wife said in court Thursday.
Sheena Greitens’ attorney Helen Wade said during the hearing that the former first lady is scared. The hearing was part of a custody case over the former couple’s two sons. Instead, the latest campaign video from Eric Greitens was front and center Thursday.
Wade said that Sheena Greitens has received written threats, noting her email address is a public record because she’s an employee at a public university.
“We live in a country where this kind of rhetoric has resulted in violence,” she said. “It’s in writing, `Wouldn’t it be awful if someone hunted down and killed Eric Greitens and his entire family. Golly that would be terrible.′ That’s one of them. The other one is so horrible I can’t read it aloud in court.”
The alleged threats to the Greitens family are following a gun-toting campaign video.
“It depicts Mr. Greitens brandishing a shotgun,” Wade said. “It’s a safety issue, judge. She’s getting death threats.”
Eric Greitens’ attorney Gary Stamper told Wade to “file an adult abuse order.”
Greitens, who resigned as Missouri governor in June 2018 after an extramarital affair spawned a criminal charge in St. Louis, has repeatedly called the abuse allegations lies. He accused Sheena Greitens of collaborating with people he considers RINOs in an effort to sabotage his Senate campaign.
The 38-second campaign video that dropped Monday shows Eric Greitens holding entering a home with a gun in hand, telling people to “get a RINO hunting permit.” Eric Greitens refers to RINO as people he believes are not true Republicans. The video has since been taken down by Facebook and flagged by Twitter saying it violated its rules.
Eric Greitens said the ad was meant to be humorous and not taken literally.
“I’m disappointed Eric isn’t here today because we were hoping that we would be able to get him to make a statement clearly denouncing the use of any sort of violence against my client,” Wade said.
Stamper, said in court “it’s disingenuous to suggest” that Greitens “would want harm to befall her.” He said he knew nothing about the threats until Wade said it in court.
“I learned about this the moment she started speaking,” Stamper said. “The problem is this case lives on social media and people have unintended consequences out there. I’m convinced and I want to tell the court and the mother and Helen [Wade] there is no way that he wouldn’t make a public statement addressing the issue for unintended consequences.”
In a phone interview with The Associated Press after the hearing, Sheena Greitens said she was left shaken by the video earlier this week.
“Eric and his attorney have spent the last three months trying to tie me to what they call a RINO conspiracy involving Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell,” Sheena Greitens said. “Which is completely fabricated. It is completely untrue and Eric knows it is untrue.
“But to be tied repeatedly to RINOs for three months in a ton of Eric’s public rhetoric, and then to see a video Monday talking about hunting down RINOs and tagging and bagging them, yeah, it did make me worried for my safety and the safety of my kids.”
Sheena Greitens provided the AP with copies of 2018 email exchanges in which she accused her then-husband of abuse. She said the emails are proof that despite Eric Greitens’ claims that the allegations contained in the March affidavit came out of nowhere to sabotage his campaign, he’s known about them from the outset.
Stamper, in a statement to the AP, noted that Sheena Greitens said in 2020 that it was in the best interest of the boys to spend time with their father. He questioned why she would do so if he was abusive.
“We believe that the ex-wife’s continued and most recent efforts to drag their children into the press are not in their best interests,” Stamper said.
Eric Greitens was not in court Thursday, Stamper said he was with his sons. Next month, the former couple is due back in court for trial to decide if the custody case should be moved to Texas where Sheena now lives.
Back in March, an affidavit filed by Sheena Greitens claimed Eric Greitens abused her and their two sons.
Thursday afternoon, Stamper sent out the following statement saying they received the tweet and email:
While Eric was attending to the children this morning, opposing counsel made a statement in court before the assembled press that her client had received death threats. We later reviewed the two documents provided, the entirety of which consisted of a vulgar email to her client from a pro-choice activist referencing coat hangers, and one tweet threatening Eric and his family. We saw no evidence of any death threats. Opposing counsel asked us to denounce the email and post. We do.
As a reminder, Eric has custody of his children this Summer, while his ex-wife will be with the boys for 3 weekends and weekly 3-hour visits. The parties have also agreed to follow the current parenting plan through May 2023, which directs that the boys spend the majority of their free time with Eric, including all Thanksgiving, Spring Break, most of Winter Break, and every major holiday.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the judge reviewed the ex-wife’s allegations, and found that they provided no basis for action, especially in light of records from the doctor, dentist, mediator, and therapist, all of which showed these allegations to be false.
Eric Greitens is among 21 Republicans running for the Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Roy Blunt’s retirement. Most polling has shown Greitens at or near the top of the field, though in close competition with U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Some GOP leaders fear that if Greitens wins the Aug. 2 primary, he could lose in November. With the Senate evenly divided, the GOP can’t afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.
Greitens is a former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes Scholar who was largely unknown in politics before he was elected governor in 2016. With abundant charisma, good looks, and his military background, Greitens was seen by many as a future presidential contender. He didn’t hide his ambition, reserving the website EricGreitensForPresident.com.
His star seemed to fade as fast as it rose. In January 2018, he admitted to a 2015 extramarital affair with his St. Louis hairdresser and a month later, he was indicted on an invasion-of-privacy charge that accused of taking a compromising photo of the woman.
In short order, a Missouri House committee began investigating campaign finance issues, and Greitens faced a second felony charge in St. Louis related to campaign finances. Both charges were eventually dropped. Under the risk of the charges being refiled, and still facing possible impeachment, Greitens resigned in June 2018. Eric and Sheena Greitens divorced in 2020.
In the March affidavit, Sheena Greitens said her ex-husband demonstrated such “unstable and coercive behavior” as his political career appeared to be collapsing in 2018 that steps were taken to limit his access to firearms. She said in the interview that friends, security workers, and others shared her concern and tried to keep Eric Greitens away from his gun.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.