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The chilling meaning of 'RINO hunting' as Eric Greitens ad gets pulled

Alexandra Ciufudean June 21, 2022
rino hunting meaning

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Missouri senate candidate Eric Greitens has posted a campaign video in which he asks Republicans to go ‘RINO hunting’. As the internet reacts, some people are wondering what Greitens means by ‘RINO hunting’. Is it what we think it is?

In the controversial video, Greitens touts his past as a Navy SEAL while encouraging Republicans to get their “RINO hunting permits”. He runs down a street and up to a house, where he and a tactical team burst in after clearing the area with smoke grenades.

The message, synthesised by a CNN report, could be taken that it’s ok to storm a house belonging to a RINO (more about the meaning later) with an armed tactical team.

Greitens’ gun-heavy ad was released just a day after Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger’s wife and five-month-old child were threatened with “execution” in a letter addressed to their family home. Kinzinger may have been targeted for participating in the House committee investigating the 6 January 2021 riot at the Capitol building.

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Screenshot via Youtube

Who is Missouri senate hopeful Eric Greitens?

Eric Greitens, 48, is a politician running for the open Senate seat in Missouri. He was previously governor of the state from January 2017 until his resignation in July 2018 after several months of “bitter legal battles and political tussles”, NPR reports. A self-styled “outsider“, Greitens campaigned against “corrupt career politicians” before a scandal surrounding a child custody battle with his ex-wife played a part in the end of his tenure. He had his sights set on the presidency.

Born in St Louis, Greitens got a BA from Duke University and an MPhil and DPhil from Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. He later became a Navy SEAL and did four tours of duty. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service.

He started his political career as a Democrat and had been recruited as a Dem candidate for Congress. However, in 2015 he decided to switch allegiance. He wrote a Fox News editorial announcing he had become a Republican and went on a listening tour to promote the switch.

Among his reasons for switching parties were the fact he’d been raised in the tradition of Harry Truman and grew disillusioned with the Democratic party after seeing the VA fail to help his brothers in arms.

Screenshot via Youtube

Greitens appealed again to his past as a Navy SEAL in Monday’s “RINO hunting” campaign video.

The chilling meaning of ‘RINO hunting’ explored

The video opens on Greitens introducing himself as “Eric Greitens, Navy SEAL” and announcing “today we’re going RINO hunting”. The meaning is made more chilling when we see him walk up to a house, armed and flanked by what resembles a tactical team. They clear the space with what looks like a smoke grenade and charge in.

“The RINO feeds on corruption and is marked by the stripes of cowardice,” Greitens says as he and his team clear the house. “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit,” he encourages viewers. “There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

For anyone still confused about the meaning of Greitens’ “RINO hunting” ad, the acronym RINO stands for Republican In Name Only and re-emerged as the GOP split between hardcore Trump supporters, who call themselves “true Republicans”, and Republicans who choose to co-operate with the January 6 investigation and denounce the actions of the former president.

Greitens’ invitation to “join the MAGA crew” and start “RINO hunting” makes that distinction clearer. When releasing the ad, he tweeted: “We are sick and tired of the Republicans In Name Only surrendering to Joe Biden and the radical Left.”

The Greitens campaign defended the ad and its meaning, telling The Hill on Friday: “If anyone doesn’t get the metaphor, they are either lying or dumb.” It seems the intended meaning of “RINO hunting” might have been metaphorical, not literal.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

RINO hunting ad pulled by Facebook but still on Twitter

Facebook took action against the ad, pulling the video from its platform. A spokesperson from parent company META explained: “We removed this video for violating our policies prohibiting violence and incitement,” as per Axios.

Twitter chose to keep the video up, despite acknowledging it violated the platform’s rules about “abusive behaviour”. A warning label alongside it states it “may be in the public’s interest for the tweet to remain accessible”, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan reported.

In response, Greitens posted that Facebook “censored” his ad. “Calling out the weak RINOs. When I get to the US Senate, we are taking on Big Tech,” he added.

Along with the ad, the Senate hopeful shared a link in which people can “order their RINO hunting permit”. The link leads to a fundraising page.

‘Disturbing’ ad slammed by both sides of political spectrum

Shortly after it was released on Twitter, Greitens’ ad had gained one million views and counting. The vast majority of reactions have been shock and/or outrage at the contents and meaning of his “RINO hunting” message.

Retired Marine and former Department of Defense and Homeland Security spokesperson David Lapan tweeted his reaction to the video. He felt Greitens, who is a former Navy SEAL, had “dishonored himself, his oath and the Navy”. Lapan said the ad represented a “clear call for violence against his political opponents, using military images, (it) is depraved and dangerous”.

The Missouri Democratic party tweeted the ad was “disgusting – but not surprising”. The Missouri Fraternal Order of Police released a statement denouncing Greitens and his “RINO hunting” ad for its “dangerous message”.

Read the full statement below:

Image via Twitter

The attorney of Greitens’ ex-wife said she would use the ad in the couple’s ongoing child custody dispute:

Greitens led a similar campaign in 2016 when he offered voters “ISIS hunting permits“, referring to the so-called Islamic State.

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Alexandra is Head of Entertainment at The Focus, managing a growing team of outstanding graduate and experienced writers. She has worked previously as an editor, writer and content specialist across web, video and social platforms and has a bachelor's in English Linguistics and a master's in Comparative Literature.