Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens tangles with Hugh Hewitt in testy interview

Missouri Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens faced a grilling from conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview Wednesday that devolved into a testy exchange after questions about allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail.

In the nearly half-hour interview, Hewitt pressed Greitens, a former GOP governor, on how he plans to deal with allegations that he had photographed a woman nude without her consent in an effort to blackmail her into keeping quiet about an extramarital affair. 

Those allegations were among the multiple scandals that prompted Greitens to resign as governor in 2018, little more than a year into his first term.

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The woman in that case has alleged in sworn testimony before a Republican-led investigative committee that Greitens forced her to perform a sexual act after taking the photo. 

“How are you going to survive that? How are you not going to be Todd Akin?” Hewitt said, comparing Greitens to the 2012 Republican Senate candidate in Missouri who lost a bid to unseat former Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGiuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri McCaskill shares new July 4 family tradition: Watching Capitol riot video Joe Manchin's secret MORE (D-Mo.) after he claimed that women who are the victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant as a result.

“You’re talking to a Republican,” Hewitt said. “I just want to win the Senate, Eric. And I’m afraid you’ll be Todd Akin 2.0.”

Greitens repeatedly denied any wrongdoing throughout the interview, claiming that the allegations against him were false and had been perpetuated by the “mainstream media” and the “establishment.” 

He also compared himself to former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE at several points in the conversation, blaming the media for spreading false information about himself and Trump. 

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“You’ve seen and you’ve watched the way the mainstream media and the left have attacked President Trump for years because he was a conservative, he was an outsider,” Greitens said. “They do the exact same thing to me.” 

Greitens launched a bid on Monday to replace retiring Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Schumer back down on his deadline? GOP fumes over Schumer hardball strategy Cybersecurity bills gain new urgency after rash of attacks MORE (R-Mo.) in the 2022 midterm elections. He has sought to cast himself as a staunch Trump loyalist, hoping to ride the wave of support that gave the former president a 15-point margin of victory in Missouri in last year’s presidential election. 

Trump hasn’t weighed in on the Missouri Senate race yet, though some in his orbit have sought to boost Greitens’s Senate ambitions. The former governor has so far touted endorsements from Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiBob Dole: 'I'm a Trumper' but 'I'm sort of Trumped out' Ex-Trump adviser Barrack charged with secretly lobbying for UAE Aides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book MORE, the former New York City mayor and Trump’s personal attorney, as well as Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again MORE, who served for nearly two years as Trump’s Interior secretary.

But Greitens’s campaign has worried some Republicans, who fear that the former governor’s political baggage could cost them a Senate race that they see as an easy win. 

Republicans need to gain only one Senate seat next year to recapture a majority in the upper chamber. But they are also facing a challenging electoral map and are defending 20 seats to Democrats’ 14, giving the GOP little room for error. 

Greitens is also likely to face tough competition in the GOP primary. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced his candidacy on Wednesday, and a handful of other prominent Republicans, including Reps. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerRepublicans hammer HUD chief over sluggish rental aid Trump unhappy with Guilfoyle backing Greitens: report Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE, Vicky HartzlerVicky Jo HartzlerTrump unhappy with Guilfoyle backing Greitens: report Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri Defense contractors ramp up donations to GOP election objectors MORE, Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithTrump unhappy with Guilfoyle backing Greitens: report Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri GAO rules Biden freeze on border wall funds legal MORE and Billy LongWilliam (Billy) H. LongHouse committee approves slate of bills to improve telecom security Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Trump unhappy with Guilfoyle backing Greitens: report MORE, are said to be weighing Senate bids of their own.