COLUMBIA, Mo. — Sheena Greitens’ attorney asked a judge Thursday to direct her ex-husband Eric Greitens to issue a public statement denouncing threats made since his Senate campaign published a video depicting him toting a gun and hunting his political opponents.
Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider was presented with printouts of two threats.
One was posted directly to Eric Greitens’ Twitter account in response to the video. The other – graphic in its description of a sexually violent assault – to Sheena Greitens’ email account at her employer, the University of Texas.
“Wouldn’t it be awful is [sic] someone hunted down and killed Eric Greitens and his entire family,” the tweet stated. “Golly, that would be terrible!”
The other threat “is so horrible I can’t read it out in court,” said Helen Wade, Sheena Greitens’ attorney, although her client insisted she wanted it in the record.
Wade said Sheena Greitens would be a target as defined by the video because her ex-husband has accused her of working with Karl Rove, called by Eric Greitens “the mastermind of RINO dirty tricks” to make public allegations of child and spousal abuse.
“I am disappointed that 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 during a hearing for the couple’s ongoing child custody case in Boone County.
Thursday’s hearing was intended to be a routine matter, preliminary to a trial set for July 15 on the question of whether the case would remain with Schneider or move to a Texas court. The couple divorced in 2020 and the case is in Boone County because Sheena Greitens was on the faculty of the University of Missouri at the time it was filed.
Eric Greitens, who resigned as governor on June 1, 2018, is attempting a political comeback in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. The dispute over jurisdiction had not garnered much attention until Sheena Greitens, in an affidavit filed in March, accused her ex-husband of child and spousal abuse in 2018.
Wade had not filed any motion asking for Schneider to direct Eric Greitens to make a statement about the video. His attorney, Gary Stamper, accused her of making it an issue because numerous reporters were present.
“If they want to have a press conference, they can have it on the courthouse steps,” Stamper said. “It is disingenuous to suggest that a man who shares joint legal and physical custody with the mother of his children would want harm to befall her.”
If Wade had concerns she wanted to air during the hearing, Stamper said, she should have filed something with the court in advance.
“There’s no way he wouldn’t make a public statement addressing this issue or the unintended consequences,” Stamper said. “But I do think it is a bit unfair to spring it on this day.”
Eric Greitens pushes back
Within two hours of the conclusion of the 10-minute hearing, Greitens’ campaign issued a statement from Stamper addressing Wade’s request.
“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,” Stamper said. “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.”
The statement added that the couple’s two sons would spend most of their time this summer with their father.
Wade, reached by phone after the statement was issued, said it was inadequate. The death threat was in a tweet directly back to Greitens’ original tweet posting the video, she said. And she asked for a statement denouncing violence of any kinds, she said, not just the two specific threats.
“I wanted Eric personally to say it,” Wade said. “He has significant power and he is the only one who can wield it. He is the person that people are supporting and he is the person people listen to.”
The 38-second video depicts Greitens, carrying a shotgun and with extras in tactical gear and military-style weapons, battering down the door of a home looking for RINOs, an acronym for Republicans in Name Only. They throw in flash grenades and Greitens says to get a “RINO Hunting permit” with “no bagging limit, no tagging limit.”
The video was seen millions of times, put behind a warning label on Twitter and removed from Facebook for violating policies “prohibiting violence and incitement.” It was denounced by the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, the Eagle Forum PAC and several of his opponents in the primary.
During a radio appearance Tuesday, Eric Greitens called the criticism “faux outrage” and added that “every normal person around the state of Missouri saw that is clearly a metaphor.”
That dismissive attitude toward the criticism is why Wade wanted the statement to come directly from Eric Greitens, she said.
“It is going to be him and only him who can make a statement to protect his family, and maybe himself, from those who are not ‘normal,’” she said.
Stamper declined to comment on Wade’s criticism of the statement.
During the hearing, Schneider seemed to be caught off-guard by Wade’s request and said she had not seen the video.
“I have been trying not to look at anything outside of the record here,” Schneider said.
Criticism of the ad’s violent imagery from Gretiens’ fellow Republicans continued on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden accused Greitens of taking “a coward’s way out” and hiding behind his lawyers. He echoed Wade’s call for Greitens to publicly renounce the threats levied against Sheena Greitens and their children.
“If he was doing what a normal, rational loving father would do, he would get in front of a camera and say, ‘If you’re a supporter of mine, and you are threatening my ex wife — whether or not we’re still married or not — you should stop and that is uncalled for. I don’t believe he’s going to do that,” Rowden, R-Columbia, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon in Columbia.
Flanked by one of Greitens’ opponents for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, state Sen. Dave Schatz, Rowden said “Greitens is a petulant child, who is just seeking to get attention.”
Rowden said he had contacted the Missouri State Highway Patrol after threats were issued against him following the release of Greitens’ ad. Captain John Hotz, spokesman for the patrol, confirmed Tuesday that Rowden did contact the highway patrol but did not elaborate on any action it may or may not take.
“If Eric Greitens thinks this was comedy, then he should be auditioning for Saturday Night Live,” Schatz said. “But this is the United States Senate we’re running for.”
This article by Rudi Keller and Tessa Weinberg of The Missouri Independent is published through a Creative Commons license.