The ex-wife of leading GOP Senate candidate and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens alleged he was physically abusive toward his children and her, according to court documents filed Monday.
Greitens resigned as governor in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct and has been trying to mount a political comeback in his pursuit of a US Senate seat. A number of his GOP primary rivals called on Monday for him to drop out of the race following the abuse allegations made by his ex-wife.
Sheena Greitens, who now resides in Texas with the former couple’s two children, said she grew so afraid of her former husband that she sought to limit his access to weapons and began sleeping in her children’s room out of concern for their safety, according to an affidavit filed in the Circuit Court of Boone County in Missouri, as part of her effort to have a custody case moved to Texas.
“In early June 2018, I became afraid for my safety and that of our children at our home, which was fairly isolated, due to Eric’s unstable and coercive behavior,” she said, according to court records from the ongoing custody battle. “This behavior included physical violence toward our children, such as cuffing our then three-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by his hair.”
Sheena Greitens said she and others were so concerned about Eric Greitens’ behavior that they limited his access to firearms on three occasions. She said she was concerned about the “escalation of physical violence” and eventually, “I started sleeping in my children’s room simply to try to keep them safe,” according to her affidavit.
In a statement, Eric Greitens denied the allegations.
“Being a father is the joy of my life and my single most important responsibility,” he said. “I will continue to love and care for my beautiful sons with all of my being, and that includes fighting for the truth and against completely fabricated, baseless allegations.”
On Monday, his attorney asked the judge to seal the custody case.
In her affidavit, Sheena Greitens laid out a series of allegations of verbal threats and physical abuse against both her and their children. She detailed how Eric Greitens allegedly threatened to use his political ties to tarnish his ex-wife’s reputation.
In one instance, she claimed Eric Greitens had “knocked me down and confiscated my cell phone, wallet, and keys so that I was unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children,” according to the court filing.
In another 2019 incident, one of the children returned from a visit with Eric Greitens with a swollen face, bleeding gums and a loose tooth, according to her court filing. “He said Dad had hit him; however, Eric said they were roughhousing and it had been an accident,” Sheena Greitens said in her affidavit.
At one point, Sheena Greitens said she tried to flee with the children.
“When I told Eric about my plans, he threatened to come to the airport and have me arrested for kidnapping and child abuse, saying that because of his authority as a former Governor who had supported law enforcement, the police would support him and not believe me, and I would lose our children,” according to the affidavit.
Sheena and Eric Greitens divorced in 2020.
Greitens’ campaign manager Dylan Johnson said: “His ex-wife is engaged in a last-ditch attempt to vindictively destroy her ex-husband. Though she knows that the press will viciously repeat her false allegations, Eric has always been a great Dad, who loves his boys and has always put them first, and that is why he is filing for full custody of his children.”
In a Tuesday statement, Sheena Greitens stood by her sworn affidavit and said she would provide evidence and documentation if the court requests it.
“My only interest is what’s best for my two children, and for the last four years, I have gone to great lengths to keep these family matters private to protect them,” she said in her statement. “I am not interested in litigating this matter anywhere other than the courtroom.”
Eric Greitens has been vying for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt. The crowded primary also includes US Rep. Vicky Hartzler, State Attorney General Eric Schmitt, US Rep. Billy Long and others.
In the wake of the latest allegations, Hartzler, Schmitt and Long called on Greitens to drop out of the race.
“I have one thing that I want to say: real men never abuse women and children. Period. End of story,” Hartzler said. “It’s time for Eric to get out of the Senate race and to get professional help.”
Schmitt called the abuse allegations “sickening,” adding, “The behavior described in this affidavit is cause for Eric Greitens to be in prison, not on the ballot for U.S. Senate. He should end his campaign immediately.”
Long said he was “shocked and appalled” by what was in the affidavit, adding of Greitens: “He is clearly unfit to represent the state of Missouri in the United States Senate. There’s no way he can stay in this race.”
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, on Monday became the highest-ranking Republican to say Greitens should leave the race.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who called on Greitens to resign as governor in 2018 and has endorsed Hartzler in the Senate primary, also called for him to drop out, expressing concern that Republicans could lose the seat if Greitens were the nominee.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had no comment on Greitens on Monday. Walking in silence without saying anything, the Kentucky Republican would not respond to questions about whether the Senate candidate should drop out.
On Tuesday, Blunt – the senator Greitens is vying to replace – also said Greitens should step aside if the allegations against him are true.
“If the statements filed with the court are true, he should not be a candidate for the Senate,” Blunt told CNN.
Greitens’ stunning fall from grace in 2018 came as he faced calls for impeachment from the GOP-controlled state legislature and a criminal charge – invasion of privacy – related to a 2015 affair, in which his former hairdresser alleged he tied her up, coerced her into oral sex and threatened to blackmail her with partially nude photos to cover up their affair.
Greitens admitted to the affair but refuted the blackmail claim. He was separately charged with another felony – tampering with computer data – for allegedly misusing a veterans charity’s donor list for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.
The criminal charges against Greitens were dropped. And a former FBI agent investigating the blackmail allegations was later indicted for perjury and tampering with physical evidence. When a Missouri ethics panel investigated Greitens’ campaign misconduct, it found no evidence of wrongdoing but fined the campaign for failing to report in-kind contributions.
Greitens’ accuser never recanted her sexual misconduct allegations.
Sheena Greitens said in her affidavit filed Monday that Eric Greitens admitted to her that he took the photo that resulted in the invasion of privacy charge, but “he threatened that I would be exposed to legal jeopardy if I ever disclosed that fact to anyone.”
She also alleged that in the spring and summer of 2018, “Eric repeatedly threatened to kill himself unless I provided specific public support to him.”
Earlier this year, the former governor told CNN that he did “absolutely” nothing wrong with his former hairdresser and claimed that he resigned for his two children.
“It was the thing that I had to do for the people who I love the most, particularly for my boys, given those tremendous lies and the tremendous pressure that was on my kids,” he said.
But Sheena Greitens pushed back on that explanation in her court filing, saying their young children were “unaware of the scandal, and I would like them to remain so until they are older.”
She added: “I have privately entreated Eric to stop introducing false and misleading information about our marriage and divorce into the public in his quest for political office,” according to her court filing.
Before the scandals, Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, was a rising star in the Republican Party. In the Senate race, he has completely aligned himself with former President Donald Trump. He has spread the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, said he would not support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for Senate GOP leader and recently visited Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort, where he met with Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who advises his Senate campaign.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.
Hannah Norton and CNN’s Manu Raju, Alex Rogers, Ali Zaslav and Michael Warren contributed to this report.