In a highly controversial campaign ad released Monday, U.S. GOP Senate candidate Eric Greitens introduced himself as a Navy SEAL before pumping a shotgun and declaring, "We're going RINO hunting."
But it appears that Greitens lied in the ad. He is no longer a Navy SEAL and has not been affiliated with the Navy Reserve or the Department of the Navy for more than a year, a Navy Reserve spokesperson told the Kansas City Star.
Navy officials said that Greitens — who served as Missouri's governor from January 2017 to June 2018 before leaving office under a sexual misconduct scandal and campaign finance allegations — resigned his commission in the Navy Reserve on May 1, 2021, two months after he launched his campaign for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
While he was governor, Greitens had been moved to inactive status in the Naval Reserve but had kept his commission. After leaving office, he requested to be reinstated into active duty in January 2019, which was met with resistance from Navy officials, according to leaked emails reported by the Washington Post.
More emails obtained by the Kansas City Star appeared to show that Navy officials relented on Greitens' request after then-Vice President Mike Pence's office intervened in support of Greitens returning to the Navy. In 2019, Greitens returned to the Navy but as a general unrestricted line officer, not a SEAL.
A spokesman for Greitens' campaign told the Kansas City Star it was "an honor of a lifetime" for Greitens to have served in the Navy and as a SEAL. During his active-duty career, Greitens was deployed four times, to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. He also received multiple awards and commendations, including a purple heart, a bronze star, and recognition for being the "single best line officer in the entire Navy Reserve."
“After 20 years from his date of commission as an officer in the Navy, Governor Greitens had already announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate to serve the people of Missouri,” spokesman Dylan Johnson said.
Greitens is the leading candidate for the GOP Senate nomination in Missouri, according to polls. The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Greitens with a 3.5-point lead among likely voters over the next most popular candidate, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
His "RINO hunting" ad sparked fierce pushback from Democrats and members of the media, who accused him of inciting violence, and some conservatives who thought the ad was in poor taste. Facebook removed Greitens' campaign video from its platform, and Twitter limited the ability of users to like and comment on it, each citing their respective policies against violence and incitement or abusive behavior.