Reminder: Eric Greitens was never exonerated | Opinion

March 3, 2022 6:30 am

Eric Greitens addresses the media after filing to run in the Missouri Senate primary on Feb. 22, 2022, at the James C Kirkpatrick State Information Center in Jefferson City (Madeline Carter/Missouri Independent).

As the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt continues to heat up, it’s important to remind the public that disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has not been “completely exonerated,” as he often likes to profess.

To review: in January 2018, Greitens admitted to having an extramarital affair and was subsequently investigated for blackmail and assault. The following month, he was formally charged, and that April, a bipartisan report was released by the Missouri House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight which detailed graphic allegations against Greitens.

This prompted then-Attorney General Josh Hawley to call for Greitens to “resign immediately,” which he ended up doing a little over a month later.

Parallel to these developments, Greitens was also investigated for misconduct related to his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

Ultimately, the Missouri Ethics Commission “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Eric Greitens, individually, and no evidence that Gov. Greitens knew of the…violations.” Greitens has since latched onto this statement as proof of having being “completely exonerated” of all wrongdoing — with regards to both the ethics commission’s investigation and the Missouri House’s investigation into blackmail and assault.

First, these were two separate investigations. Being “exonerated” after one investigation does not imply blanket absolution with regards to both investigations.

Second, Greitens’ claims that he’s been “completely exonerated” by the ethics commission aren’t accurate. Not being charged with a crime is not the same as being “exonerated.” Furthermore, the investigation did result in the “Greitens campaign agree[ing] to pay fines totaling over $178,000,” which isn’t exactly an sign of guiltlessness.

Yet, when conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt brought up the former governor’s “multiple allegations of misconduct,” Greitens maintained that he’d “been fully exonerated” as the ethics commission “found no evidence of any wrongdoing.”

When Hewitt pressed Greitens about conflating the ethics commission investigation regarding campaign violations with the bipartisan Missouri House investigation that led to a graphic report detailing allegations of violent sexual misconduct, Greitens continued to defend his innocence.

Since that interview, Hewitt has stated that Greitens is “a deeply-flawed individual” and that it would be “a doomed race” if he emerged as the victor of the upcoming Republican primary.

Karl Rove, the political strategist often credited with George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, argues that supporting someone who “breaks his marriage vows and conducts multiple affairs and has one with his hairdresser and ties her up in the basement of his own home and takes pictures of her” is “not a winning message for Republicans.”

Defiantly, Greitens declares that “[w]hen we’re able to look back with pride, we can look forward with confidence.” Since the advent of “alternative facts,” politicians like Greitens have shown a willingness to move beyond bending the truth towards peddling a parallel version of it.

According to Greitens, “[r]ight now, our country needs fighters,” and he’s “here to fight.”

Given his own history of running from a fight by resigning as governor, rather than face the prospect of being impeached and removed from office by his own party, it appears that after pushing lies for so long, even Greitens is confused about what’s true.

Conservative Missourians should be concerned that Greitens winning the Republican primary presents a very real possibility that Democrats can flip a Senate seat that has been under GOP control since 1987. Greitens could very well be the next Todd Akin, who famously helped elect Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2012 after making a comment about “legitimate rape.”

Liberal Missourians should be concerned about a resurgent Greitens because despite all the baggage, he could end up winning the general election.

Either way, Missourians from all political stripes should be able to unite behind the danger that Eric Greitens poses.

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Joshua Holzer
Joshua Holzer

Joshua Holzer is an assistant professor of political science at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He is a five-year veteran of the U.S. Army.