Greitens undeterred by abuse allegations in GOP Senate race

Apr 18, 2022, 8:27 AM | Updated: Apr 19, 2022, 3:24 am
FILE - Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens gestures while speaking to reporters in Jefferson City Fe...

FILE - Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens gestures while speaking to reporters in Jefferson City Feb. 22, 2022. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner faces a hearing Monday, April 11, 2022, before the Missouri Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The panel will determine if she committed ethical violations in her handling of the 2018 criminal investigation of then-Gov. Greitens, who resigned in June 2018. If the panel determines violations, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear the case and Gardner could face punishment ranging from a mild reprimand to being disbarred. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb File)

(AP Photo/David A. Lieb File)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Eric Greitens stepped aside as Missouri’s governor in 2018 amid a scandal involving accusations of blackmail, bondage and sexual assault. As he attempts a political comeback this year with a U.S. Senate bid, his ex-wife has said Greitens physically abused her and one of their children.

It once took far less to end a political career. But at a recent meeting of the St. Charles County Pachyderm Club in a largely Republican area of suburban St. Louis, GOP voters engaged in genuine debate over whether they’d support Greitens in the August primary.

Bob Sullentrup, the club’s 70-year-old president, dismissed Greitens as “damaged goods.”

“He’s going to get creamed,” he said. “That baggage will follow him.”

Others, including several women, weren’t so sure. Sharon Kumnick of Weldon Springs said she’d vote for Greitens if he’s the GOP nominee, noting “everybody’s divorce, when they want more than is offered, is contentious.”

Tina Maloney, a real estate investor from St. Charles, said Greitens should stay in the race.

“I don’t think just because you’re accused of something in this day and age that you should drop out,” Maloney said. “This is what they always do,” she said, citing the sexual assault allegations that emerged against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court nomination hearing.

“It shows character to fight,” Maloney added.

That sentiment is reinforcing Greitens’ refusal to leave the race, posing the latest test of the GOP’s openness to men accused of physical or sexual abuse. Greitens is convinced that by casting himself as a conservative fighter in the mold of former President Donald Trump, he can win the Republican nomination for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat even though many of his political benefactors abandoned him and the party’s establishment wishes he would just go away.

“I am going to win,” Greitens said in an email, calling his ex-wife’s accusations “false” and a “political hit job.”

Indeed, Trump is perhaps the GOP’s best example that candidates can power through abuse allegations. He won the 2016 campaign despite accusations of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women. In this year’s midterms, Herschel Walker is poised to become the GOP’s nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia despite making repeated threats on his ex-wife’s life. A Republican candidate for governor in Nebraska, Charles W. Herbster, was accused last week of groping several women.

Sean Parnell, a Republican who sought a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, is the rare example of a candidate who ended his campaign after allegations of abuse. He only did so after losing a court fight over custody of his three children.

The string of allegations concern some Republicans who worry that the party will rally behind candidates who will be unable to win the general election, when moderate voters often play a more decisive role. With the Senate evenly divided, the GOP can’t afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.

That anxiety has deepened in Missouri after Trudy Busch Valentine, an heiress to the Anheuser-Busch fortune whose family history is deeply intertwined with the state, entered the Senate race last month as a Democrat. Many in the party have unified behind Valentine as the best chance to flip the seat.

In her personal capacity, Pat Thomas, the state GOP’s treasurer, has called on Greitens to leave the race. She said Valentine’s entrance makes it even more urgent for someone other than Greitens to emerge as the nominee.

“I am certainly concerned that (she) could be a problem,” Thomas said.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and Rhodes Scholar, was considered an early front-runner in the crowded Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt. But his campaign was rocked last month when his ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, filed a sworn affidavit as part of a child custody case that accused Eric Greitens of displaying such “unstable and coercive behavior” in 2018 that others took steps to limit his access to firearms.

In the affidavit, Sheena Greitens said he once knocked her down, took her wallet, keys and phone, and prevented her from leaving their home with their two children. She also accused Eric Greitens of striking their eldest son and pulling him around by his hair, among other claims.

Eric Greitens says that’s all false. And he, his allies and his attorneys have used hardball tactics to try to discredit her.

In statements, interviews, a press conference and on social media, they’ve portrayed Sheena Greitens as a liar “with a documented history of mental illness.” They’ve also accused her of working in conspiracy with a web of Republican figures to take down Eric Greitens’ candidacy, among them Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., longtime Republican operative Karl Rove and Greitens’ former 2016 campaign manager Austin Chambers, who has staunchly defended Sheena Greitens.

“Everyone smelled right away that this was a political hit job,” Eric Greitens said.

His attorneys have filed subpoena requests seeking phone records from Sheena Greitens, her sister, as well as Rove and Chambers, whose attorneys derided the effort an “abuse of judicial process” by a “floundering campaign.”

But Eric Greitens says that if the allegations against him were true, there is no way his ex-wife would have agreed two years ago to a court-approved parenting plan. An affidavit she filed at the time stated that it was in the “best interest” of the children for the parents to share joint custody, a discrepancy that he argues amounts to perjury in light of her most recent statements accusing him of abuse.

Sheena Greitens says she told “multiple lawyers, therapists, and our mediator, in 2018 and afterward” about the abuse allegations. She also says she will provide evidence in court, including pictures and documentation of their communications. The parenting agreement came at the time she was moving to Texas for her job.

“I had to make concessions that I did not want to make,” she said in a court filing.

Ultimately, she says that her ex-husband’s current behavior feels like a repeat of 2018, when he resigned rather than go under oath to respond to allegations made by his former hairdresser, who testified that he blindfolded and restrained her in his basement, assaulted her and appeared to take a compromising photo to pressure her to keep quiet about an affair. He has acknowledged the affair, but has denied taking pictures.

“When his political future is at risk, he becomes erratic, unhinged, coercive and threatening,” Sheena Greitens stated in a recent court filing. “He accuses me of things that are untrue and generates conspiracy theories about me collaborating with his enemies when I have done no such thing.”

For now, the political fallout from the episode is uncertain.

There are signs the dispute could galvanize the pro-Trump base. Many online conservative outlets have sided with Greitens while criticizing his ex-wife, a college professor at the University of Texas who specializes in Asian affairs. And Greitens’ campaign says they saw a dramatic uptick in donations since the allegations were made public, taking in over $100,000 in 14 days.

But he’s also drawn harsh condemnation from many leading Republicans in Missouri. Sen. Josh Hawley, who served as Missouri’s attorney general when Greitens was governor, said in a statement that if you hit a woman or child, “you belong in handcuffs, not the United States Senate. It’s time for Eric Greitens to leave this race.”

Greitens’ leading opponents had stern words, too, calling on him to to be jailed, drop out or seek help. But not everyone was quick to fully condemn.

Gov. Mike Parson said he believed Sheena Greitens, but stopped short of urging Eric Greitens to end his candidacy. The Missouri Republican Party also hasn’t taken a stand on Greitens’ future.

Thomas, the state party’s treasurer, said “the best thing he can do is suspend his campaign.”

She also noted that while Greitens accused the woman he had an affair with as well as his ex-wife of lying, they’ve both made their statements under oath — which Eric Greitens has not done.

“Why hasn’t he gone under oath?” Thomas asked. “If he had nothing to hide and wanted to put this all to bed, why doesn’t he do that for his supporters?”


Slodysko reported from Washington.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Wallace Reid purchases fuel for the vehicle he drives to make a living using ride-share apps...
Associated Press

Greedflation: Is price-gouging helping fuel high inflation?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Furious about surging prices at the gasoline station and the supermarket, many consumers feel they know just where to cast blame: On greedy companies that relentlessly jack up prices and pocket the profits. Responding to that sentiment, the Democratic-led House of Representatives last month passed on a party-line vote — most Democrats […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Wallace Reid purchases fuel for the vehicle he drives to make a living using ride-share apps...
Associated Press

Greedflation: Is price-gouging helping fuel high inflation?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Furious about surging prices at the gasoline station and the supermarket, many consumers feel they know just where to cast blame: On greedy companies that relentlessly jack up prices and pocket the profits. Responding to that sentiment, the Democratic-led House of Representatives last month passed on a party-line vote — most Democrats […]
7 hours ago
Gabby Giffords, center, the subject of the documentary film "Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down," poses...
Associated Press

Giffords documentary comes as gun debates stay center stage

In the two years documentary filmmakers shadowed former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the most jarring moment for them was in the kitchen of her Tucson, Arizona, home. As cameras were rolling, she and her husband, Sen. Mark Kelly, nonchalantly opened the freezer. Kelly grabbed a plastic container and revealed it holds the piece of Giffords’ skull […]
7 hours ago
Republican candidate for Illinois governor Richard Irvin speaks with employees during a tour of HM ...
Associated Press

Illinois governor’s race is also battle among billionaires

WAUCONDA, Ill. (AP) — The race to be Illinois’ next governor is also a battle among billionaires, including two whose names won’t appear on Tuesday’s primary ballot. Republican candidates Darren Bailey, who as a state lawmaker fought pandemic measures such as mask mandates, and former prosecutor Richard Irvin, the first Black mayor of Chicago’s largest […]
7 hours ago
Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit lights candles during a service in Oslo Cathedral, Oslo, Sunday...
Associated Press

Norway mourns victims of Oslo shooting with memorial service

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Norway’s prime minister and members of the royal family joined mourners at a memorial service in Oslo Cathedral Sunday for the victims of a shooting in the capital’s nightlife district. A gunman opened fire in central Oslo’s bar area early Saturday, killing two people — a man in his 50s and […]
7 hours ago
U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., speaks before a gathering of potential voters in Magee, Miss., Ju...
Associated Press

2 GOP congressmen in Mississippi at risk of defeat in runoff

MAGEE, Miss. (AP) — Congressional primary runoffs with incumbents are rare in Mississippi. This year, two of the state’s Republican representatives are fighting to keep their jobs in runoffs against challengers from their own party. U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo is seeking a seventh term and was considered vulnerable after being accused in a 2021 congressional […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Greitens undeterred by abuse allegations in GOP Senate race