ST. LOUIS • Missouri gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens today came close to alleging that election opponent John Brunner is behind an anonymous on-line video that distorts Greitens' military record, saying the video “fits a pattern” by Brunner's supporters.
Brunner's campaign issued a statement unequivocally denying any involvement.
“I'm saying this clearly fits the pattern of what John Brunner did with his superpac attacks” previously, said Greitens, who is fighting Brunner and two other candidates for the 2016 Republican gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 2 Missouri state primaries.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, has used his military background to establish community-service organization The Mission Continues, and has written several self-help books focused on veterans' issues.
The YouTube video at issue calls into question details of Greitens' military record and takes him to task for using his SEAL background to generate national publicity.
Most of the video's specific criticisms about Greitens' record relate to byzantine details that in some cases don't even qualify as criticisms. Among the “allegations,” for example, is that Greitens is the author or subject of four books.
Nonetheless, Greitens' campaign today staged a massive push-back, releasing his military record and conducting a news conference in which a few dozen boisterous veterans and other supporters lauded Greitens' military services, while campaign workers handed out a detailed, point-by-point refutation of the video.
“This is a slander against me and every day that I served,” said Greitens, “(and) a slander against everyone who has worn the uniform of the United States of America.”
The Brunner campaign said in its statement that it "is absolutely not involved."
"This clearly appears to be an internal conflict among Navy SEALs . . . For Mr. Greitens to slander our campaign and our candidate with spurious personal attacks is clearly a failure to assume responsibility for whatever his past relationships are with his fellow Navy SEALs," said the statement. It notes that Brunner, too, is a military veteran.
The video, just under nine minutes long, doesn't identify who paid for it, potentially a violation of Missouri campaign law. The only identifier on it are the words, “Operation Vigilant Resolve,” which was the code name for the operation that became the First Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War.
The race for the GOP nomination in Missouri has long been steeped in anonymous sniping and intrigue, starting with the events surrounding the February 2015 suicide of frontrunner Tom Schweich.
Schweich, Missouri's state auditor, shot himself after complaining bitterly about the campaign tactics of fellow Republicans, including a sneering, personally insulting radio commercial that likened him to Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy from the old Andy Griffith Show. The Post-Dispatch ultimately traced the origin of the radio ad to Kansas City political operative Jeff Roe, who is currently heading U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.
More recently, Greitens and Brunner had a heated, bitter telephone conversation about Brunner's campaign tactics against Greitens — a conversation which Brunner's staff secretly recorded, and which was ultimately made public.
The campaigns of Brunner and the other two Republican gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, all have condemned the video.
"Mr. Greitens and I may currently be political opponents, but today I stand with him and decry nameless and untraceable attacks funded by shadowy money," reads Kinder's statement. "If this does not explicitly violate Missouri campaign finance law, it should . . . [W]e’ve tragically learned this past year that these attacks can lead to the worst possible outcome."