Recent reports suggest disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens may try to relaunch his damaged political brand through a bid for the U.S. Senate, after Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) announcement that he won’t seek reelection in 2022. And Greitens has been laying the groundwork for such a comeback via fringe right-wing media outlets and pro-Trump election conspiracy theories.
On March 9, The Associated Press reported that Greitens “said last week on KFTK-FM in St. Louis that he would ‘keep the door open’ on a Senate run. That was even before Blunt’s surprising announcement on Monday that he would not seek a third term in 2022.”
Eric Greitens was elected governor of Missouri in 2016 as a young rising star for Republicans, but was forced to resign two years later following reports of sexual assault, blackmail, and campaign finance violations. (His campaign paid $178,000 in fines for campaign finance violations, but The Missouri Ethics Commission “found no evidence of any wrongdoing” by Greitens himself.) He has spent the last year testing the waters for a comeback -- in recent months, that comeback has been staged on fringe right-wing media platforms, where he pushed the bogus voter fraud conspiracy theories that fueled an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. When those lies boiled over into violence, he blamed “the left.”
Very little, if anything, has changed since January 6 -- Greitens affirmed his support for voter fraud conspiracy theories as recently as this month. His fervent stance in support of former President Donald Trump’s effort to undermine democracy may further complicate funding a potential candidacy, as Republican members who tried to overturn the presidential election struggle to turn the corporate money valve back on.
And as Politico recently noted, Greitens remains a pariah in the Republican Party:
Some of the former political lieutenants who guided his successful 2016 campaign for governor aren’t expected to help him this time around, a list that includes campaign manager Austin Chambers and pollster Dave Sackett. The ex-governor has been calling around to operatives to put a team together.
Greitens has also lost some of his biggest contributors, including wealthy business executive David Humphreys, who gave more than $2 million to his 2016 campaign. Humphreys said there was “not a chance” he’d back a Greitens Senate bid, adding that he stood by his 2018 statement calling on the former governor to resign.
Given this hostility, it is unsurprising that Greitens has resorted to the very bottom of the right-wing media slime bucket: former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Greitens has been a frequent guest on his War Room: Pandemic show, appearing at least nine times since February 1. He formerly hosted his own program, Actionable Intelligence, on Real America’s Voice, the same fringe network that carries Bannon’s show.
On January 6, less than an hour after police secured the Capitol, Greitens was on his Real America’s Voice show validating the grievances of the rioters, saying, “There exist strong and unanswered questions about statistically impossible election results,” repeating debunked election fraud conspiracy theories, and blaming the left for waging a “full-scale war on the law.”
In the months leading up to the attack on the Capitol, Greitens had pushed election fraud conspiracy theories and identified with the angry Trump supporters who wanted the election results to be overturned in Congress on January 6.
Days after Election Day, he interviewed serial misinformer John Solomon to preview his “investigations'' into supposed fraud. Greitens promised his audience, “We hear you and we’re on your side,” and introduced an investigative partnership between Solomon’s Just the News website and Real America’s Voice to “independently review the returns from a select number of counties in the most contested swing states.”
During the interview, Solomon also promoted a totally baseless video from far-right smear machine Project Veritas alleging a postal worker was asked to illegally backdate ballots in Michigan. The story had been debunked by a local newspaper, The Traverse City Eagle, a day before Greitens’ segment aired.
Nevertheless, Greitens proactively emphasized Solomon’s credibility, telling viewers he was working with “30 investigative reporters” and “all they’re doing is looking at the facts.” He leaned on Solomon again in the days after the failed Capitol putsch, when they both tried to shift blame for the insurrection away from the former president.
On his show, Greitens has interviewed many of the most egregiously dishonest and farcical actors in the Trump post-election campaign saga, including Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, joining them in promoting the idea that Democrats had systematically stolen the presidential election.
- On December 3, he said that “the preponderance of all of these errors are always in favor of Biden and against Trump” and mentioned “this software glitch in Antrim County, Michigan,” referring to a debunked conspiracy theory about Dominion Voting Systems that resulted in a series of lawsuits against right-wing outlets that promoted it.
- On December 8, he asked former Trump adviser and far-right political commentator Sebastian Gorka to “talk a little bit … about how this contingent election process works.” Gorka then explained why it was supposedly possible for Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election in the House of Representatives on January 6, saying, “If it was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it’s good enough for President Trump.”
- On December 7, he referenced people “who are so angry about what happened during the presidential election” because they’ve seen “all of these election irregularities.” He also endorsed a call from his guest, Ned Ryun, to start “demanding accountability” from GOP leaders who refused to act on voter fraud conspiracy theories.
- On December 4, he played footage of one of Giuliani’s bogus voter fraud hearings and commended “brave Americans” who “stepped forward, firsthand witnesses, who bravely spoke out about what they saw take place on Election Day.”
- On November 9, Greitens said, “The election irregularities of 2020 need to be investigated, and despite what the mainstream media tell you, there is a lot to investigate,” assuring his viewers that “you are right to be skeptical.” As Greitens declared that “the mainstream media … knowingly suppressed stories about potential Democratic corruption,” the segment’s b-roll included an image of a woman holding a sign with the insurrectionist slogan “Stop the Steal.”
After the January 6 attack and the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Greitens became a frequent guest on War Room: Pandemic, offering boilerplate tirades against the left and political insiders while largely letting Bannon do the talking. Greitens would nod along to various election fraud conspiracy theories and lies before repeating the same talking points back to him.
But he has not backed away from sharing election fraud lies himself. In another instance from War Room in February, he cited the affidavit of Giuliani voter fraud “witness” Jessy Jacob, a city worker in Detroit who claimed that she witnessed election workers improperly influencing voters to support Democrats. A consultant for the Detroit Board of Elections said in November that Jacob’s concerns suggest “she did not understand many of the processes that she observed, and for which she was not responsible.”
A final point: Bannon is extremely enthusiastic about Greitens’ credentials as a Rhodes Scholar and former Navy SEAL. However, other SEALs have made clear they do not share this enthusiasm.
In 2016, during his campaign for governor, a group of current and former Navy SEALs published a video criticizing Greitens for exploitation the pedigree of his military service. They accuse him of exaggerating his experiences in service of selling books. In an article about the video, one SEAL told The Missouri Times he considers Greitens, who never served in combat as a Navy SEAL, to be “a disgrace on our community.”
When he was reported for sexual assault in 2018, “more than half a dozen current and former Navy SEALs” decried Greitens in an article published by The New Yorker. The report states that “all expressed frustration that a peripheral and contentious figure in their community, one who served overseas but never served with the SEALs in combat, became a public face of the SEAL community. The SEALs complained “that it tends to be those who are least representative of SEAL core values, such as Greitens, who end up trading on the group’s reputation and representing it in public.”