Trump's endorsement of 'Eric' causes confusion in Missouri Senate race

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Former President Donald Trump’s purposefully confusing endorsement on the eve of Missouri’s Republican Senate primary resulted in numerous candidates claiming his support, including a former governor who has been accused of abusing his wife, children and mistress.

On Monday evening, Trump wrote that he trusts “the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 Elections, and I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Tuesday’s Missouri Senate primary has two Erics leading in polling, current state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and ex-governor Eric Greitens. (A third Eric, Eric McElroy, is also on the ballot, but is a long-shot candidate.) Both frontrunners claimed Trump’s endorsement shortly after the statement went out, calling it an honor to receive his backing. The two each claimed to have spoken to Trump over the phone to thank him for his support. When asked for clarification on the announcement, a Trump spokesperson said the message “speaks for itself.”

Greitens resigned from his position as governor in 2018 after a woman testified under oath that he had tied her up in his basement, stripped her naked, taken photos of her, threatened to use those photos as blackmail if she discussed their extramarital affair and then forced her into performing oral sex. He was also embroiled in scandals involving donor lists and alleged campaign finance violations.

Additionally, in documents filed this spring, Greitens’s ex-wife alleged she had evidence proving he had abused her and their children as the two battled over custody. Eric and Sheena Greitens both testified in a private deposition on July 20.

In the affidavit, Sheena Greitens said her husband threatened to kill himself if she did not support him politically and told her he would use his power to get her arrested so she would lose custody of the children. The case could be moved to Texas, where Sheena Greitens now works as a professor. The former governor has contended that his ex-wife’s claims are part of a conspiracy orchestrated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP operative Karl Rove. Ads in the race have hammered Eric Greitens on his past, as well as on positive comments he made about China.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in Jefferson City, Mo., in February. (David A. Lieb/AP)

Greitens is not the first candidate with ties to alleged domestic abuse whom Trump has supported this cycle. In the Pennsylvania Senate race, the former president originally endorsed Sean Parnell, who dropped out last fall after a judge in a custody hearing found he had committed “some acts of abuse in the past” against his wife. (Trump later endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz, who narrowly won the May primary.) In the Georgia Senate election, Trump has thrown his support behind Herschel Walker, who has been alleged to have threatened women in the past, including putting a gun to the head of his ex-wife.

Schmitt, the race’s current frontrunner, has served as state attorney general since 2019 and quickly activated Missouri’s “trigger law” on abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The state now has a total abortion ban except in the case of a medical emergency.

“My Office has effectively ended abortion in Missouri, becoming the first state in the country to do so following the Court’s ruling,” Schmitt said in a June 24 statement. “My Office has been fighting to uphold the sanctity of life since I became attorney general, culminating in today’s momentous court ruling and attorney general opinion. I will continue the fight to protect all life, born and unborn.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks to supporters in Sikeston, Mo., on July 30. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Other Republicans in the race include Rep. Vicky Hartzler, Rep. Billy Long and attorney Mark McCloskey, who became a prominent figure in conservative politics after he and his wife were photographed pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer of 2020.

The Democratic primary is being contested between Lucas Kunce, an attorney and former Marine running on a populist antitrust campaign, and Trudy Busch Valentine, an heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune. John Wood, an independent candidate who worked as a Jan. 6 investigator and has the backing of former Republican Sen. John Danforth, says he has submitted enough signatures to also qualify for the November ballot. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report currently rates the race as “Solid Republican,” but a Greitens win could put the seat in play.