Facebook has removed a campaign video by Republican Missouri US Senate candidate Eric Greitens that shows him brandishing a shotgun and declaring that he is hunting RINOs, an acronym that stands for Republicans In Name Only.
RINO is a term of derision that former President Donald Trump and his allies use to label moderate or establishment Republicans.
In the video campaign advertisement on Monday, Greitens, a former Missouri governor who resigned in disgrace in 2018, is flanked by an armed tactical unit outside a home on a tree-lined street as he whispers: “The RINO feeds on corruption and is marked by the stripes of cowardice”.
Greitens’s campaign dismissed the outrage that erupted over the new advertisement.
“If anyone doesn’t get the metaphor, they are either lying or dumb,” campaign manager Dylan Johnson said in a statement.
Once a swing state, Missouri has become more reliably Republican in recent years.
But the Senate race is nonetheless receiving national attention because some in the Republican establishment are anxious that Greitens would be vulnerable against a Democrat in November. With the Senate evenly divided, the Republican party cannot afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.