June 21, 2022

A man — a former Navy SEAL, in fact — creeps up to a door of a home with a rifle in his hands and a pistol in his belt. A team of camouflaged guys in tactical gear carrying assault weapons move alongside him.

After a few corny whispered words, they bust down the door and rush in looking for what they consider the bad guys. The man then rattles off a couple of more tired cliches.

Sounds like the forgettable plot of some crummy action movie with a bunch of B-level actors you’d see on cable at 1 in the morning.

But what I’m describing here is a political ad — a political ad for a man running for the United States Senate.

The ad is so stunningly inappropriate that, at first, you might think it’s a spoof. Sadly, it is not.

Eric Greitens, a Republican running for Senate in Missouri, has a new ad where he and his team kick open a house’s door looking for “RINOs” — an abbreviated version of Republicans In Name Only.

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

Seriously, I’m not making this up.

Facebook immediately banned it. Twitter allowed it, but put a label on it that said, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” The ad was condemned by … seemingly everyone with any sense of decency.

Now it should be pointed out that Greitens is familiar with controversy. He was forced to resign as Missouri’s governor in 2018 after allegations of an extramarital affair in which the woman claimed he physically abused and threatened her. He also was accused by his ex-wife of abusing her and their young son. (There were also allegations of misuse of a charity donor list to raise funds for his campaign.) Greitens has denied any wrongdoing.

Then comes this bizarre ad from a leading contender for the Republican Senate nomination in Missouri.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid tweeted, “So… elect Eric Greitens to kick off mass shooting raids against other Republicans and whoever else isn’t on ‘team MAGA?’ Yeah… totally normal political ad.” Her MSNBC colleague Chris Hayes called it “very, very sick.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper mentioned Greitens’ past when he tweeted, “You’d think a Senate candidate accused of spousal and child abuse by his ex-wife — to say nothing of the accusations he sexually assaulted and blackmailed his former hairdresser — might consider a less violent appeal to voters.”

(The New York Times’ Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam recently wrote about Greitens’ troubling history.)

California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell tweeted, “Let’s place the blame for this violent ad where it belongs, at the doorsteps of Kevin McCarthy & Mitch McConnell. They’ve failed to confront & condemn the MAGA radicals of their party. Now it’s out of control & threatens everyone’s freedom.”

On and on it goes. David French, a contributor to The Atlantic, tweeted, “I’m not going to retweet that Greitens ad because he’s so obviously thirsty for the views, but the man is practically begging for political violence. And it’s particularly gross to declare himself a SEAL at the start. He’s making a mockery of the military ethos.”

And Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Sewell Chan had this interesting take on Twitter: “I overlapped with @EricGreitens at Oxford in the late ’90s when he was completing his Rhodes scholarship. Selection criteria include ‘truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship’ … along with ‘moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one’s fellow beings.’ Several scholars I met during that time are conservative Republicans, people of good faith and good will. None, as far as I know, has called for hunting down RINO’s.”

So why would Greitens do such a thing? Doing it ever seems like a bad idea, but only weeks after several notable mass shootings, including the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas? And right during the hearings to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol where lives were lost?

CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “The inherent message in Greitens’ video is that it’s totally ok for armed individuals to storm a private home because, um, the person living there doesn’t agree with your views on politics and policy. Sit with that one for a minute.”

So, again, back to the why.

As Cillizza points out, the ad brings attention to Greitens’ campaign — even if it’s negative. As Cillizza writes, “The negative attention Greitens gets for the video will be used by the candidate as proof positive to the Republican base that Democrats and the media are freaking out about him and his candidacy. I’d be surprised if it took Greitens’ team more than 24 hours to turn the negative reaction to the video into a fundraising appeal.”

Or, as CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan succinctly put it in a tweet:

1. Make video about hunting people

2. Wait for video to get removed/restricted by tech platform

3. Fundraise off being censored

If that’s true, it might be as disturbing as the ad itself.

And to dismiss it as trolling or some wackadoodle looking for attention is dangerous. Robert Pape, who studies political violence at the University of Chicago, told The New York Times’ Alan Feuer, “When individuals feel more confident and legitimate in voicing violent sentiments, it can encourage others to feel more confident in making actual violence easier. Unfortunately, this is a self-reinforcing spiral.”

If there’s even a sliver of good out of this, it’s that others, including the media, are paying attention to and condemning this kind of deplorable behavior.

Jan. 6 hearings

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The House select committee’s hearings into Jan. 6, 2021, continue today.

A new ABC News poll shows six in 10 Americans believe former President Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in that day’s awful events.

As you might expect, the poll is split among party lines: 91% of Democrats think Trump should be charged, compared to 19% of Republicans.

Meanwhile, Trump is now upset with, in part, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy because there isn’t more Republican representation on the committee. In an interview with conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root last week, Trump said, “Unfortunately, a bad decision was made. … That was a very, very foolish decision.”

Trump was referring to McCarthy’s decision to withdraw all his appointees to the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of his five nominees: Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana. Pelosi rejected them because both had spread misinformation about the 2020 election.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote, “McCarthy thought that by walking away entirely, he would be able to discredit the work of the committee as partisan.’ Bad call. With none of his allies there to throw sand into the gears, the committee — which still included two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — was able to organize a seamless presentation. Cheney has played a star role, and mostly Republican witnesses are telling the story. And without disruption, the committee has also been able to look at what role Republican members of Congress may have played in the day’s events.”

Here are a few more stories to catch you up on the latest:

More on the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

On May 11, a Palestinian-American reporter for Al Jazeera named Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed while reporting Israeli military activity in the city of Jenin in the West Bank.​​ Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Health Ministry blamed Israeli forces for intentionally targeting Abu Akleh, who was wearing a protective vest that said, “PRESS.” The Israel Defense Forces said it’s possible that Abu Akleh was shot by one of its soldiers but that the target was a Palestinian gunman and that Abu Akleh was shot accidentally.

Last week, the Washington Post’s Visual Forensics team published an outstanding piece about the shooting. The Post’s Sarah Cahlan, Meg Kelly and Steve Hendrix had “How Shireen Abu Akleh was killed.”

Now The New York Times has its look into the shooting. Raja Abdulrahim, Patrick Kingsley, Christiaan Triebert and Hiba Yazbek (with videos by Phil Robibero) have “The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh: Tracing a Bullet to an Israeli Convoy.”

The Times writes, “A monthlong investigation by The New York Times found that the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh was fired from the approximate location of the Israeli military convoy, most likely by a soldier from an elite unit.”

The story goes on to say, “The evidence reviewed by The Times showed that there were no armed Palestinians near her when she was shot. It contradicted Israeli claims that, if a soldier had mistakenly killed her, it was because he had been shooting at a Palestinian gunman. The Times investigation also showed that 16 shots were fired from the location of the Israeli convoy, as opposed to Israeli claims that the soldier had fired five bullets in the journalists’ direction. The Times found no evidence that the person who fired recognized Ms. Abu Akleh and targeted her personally. The Times was unable to determine whether the shooter saw that she and her colleagues were wearing protective vests emblazoned with the word Press.”

There’s much more to this investigation, so I encourage you to read it in full.

Notable story

The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin with a disturbing, but important story: “Amy’s story: After escaping domestic violence, sportswriter’s ex-wife speaks out to help others.”

Shaikin talks with Amy Kaufman, who is a survivor of domestic violence. Her boyfriend-turned-husband Jonah Keri is currently serving 21 months in prison. Keri is known professionally for his books on the Tampa Bay Rays and Montreal Expos, as well as work with various media outlets including The Athletic, Canada’s Sportsnet and as a podcast host for CBS Sports.

Another notable story

Also take a few moments to read this story from The Washington Post’s Caroline Kitchener: “This Texas teen wanted an abortion. She now has twins.” So well reported and well written.

And one more …

Wow, so many good stories out there right now. I also have to call special attention to this New York Times story from Edgar Sandoval: “In a Town Crippled By Grief, the Healing Power of a Perfect Pitch.” It’s about a Little League team from Uvalde, Texas.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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