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Ex-wife of Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens accuses him of domestic abuse

Greitens, a Republican former governor, said the allegations were "fabricated" and "baseless," while his GOP rivals said he needed to drop out of the race.

The ex-wife of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens alleged in court documents Monday that Greitens, a GOP Senate candidate, abused her and their young son while they were married, including knocking her down and confiscating her cellphone.

In an affidavit for a custody case in Boone County, Missouri, Sheena Greitens said she was the victim of domestic violence while she was married to Eric Greitens for almost a decade.

“Prior to our divorce, during an argument in late April 2018, Eric 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 from our home," she said in the court filing, accusing her ex-husband, a former Navy SEAL, of "unstable and coercive behavior."

"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,” she alleged in the filing, which was obtained by NBC News and NBC affiliate KOMU of Columbia, Missouri.

Her filing was first reported by The Associated Press.

Eric Greitens called the allegations "fabricated" and "baseless."

"I am seeking full custody of my sons, and for their sake, I will continue to pray for their mother and hope that she gets the help that she needs," he tweeted Monday.

His lawyer, Gary Stamper, said the accusations were false, "inflammatory and scurrilous" in a court filing demanding that the affidavit be kept out of public view.

"Public disclosure of the Petitioner's allegations — that are as yet unproven — will irreparably harm [Greitens'] candidacy," Stamper said in a filing.

Vicky Hartzler, a GOP rival who is also seeking the nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, called on Greitens to drop out.

"Real men never abuse women. Period," she said in a statement Monday. "It's time for Eric to get out of the Senate race and to get professional help."

Democratic candidate Lucas Kunce retweeted Hartzler's statement and said, "I agree."

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is also running for the open Senate seat, called the allegations “disgusting and sickening.”

“He should end his campaign immediately,” Schmitt said.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also demanded that Greitens drop out.

"If you hit a woman or a child, you belong in handcuffs, not the United States Senate. It’s time for Eric Greitens to leave this race," Hawley tweeted.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, weighed in on Greitens’ electability Monday in light of the allegations.

“I don’t know why you would want to continue the race in this case,” Thune told reporters at the Capitol. “I mean, it just seems like with that, coupled with all the other scandals, it’s hard to see how he could be a viable general election candidate.”

Asked about the allegations, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, “It looks very ugly to me,” but he declined to say whether Greitens should quit the race.

“I trust the voters, primary voters, to handle it and come up with the right answer,” he said.

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 2.

As a former governor with strong name recognition, Greitens has been seen as one of the leading candidates in the Republican primary, even though he resigned in 2018 amid a sexual misconduct scandal and a campaign finance felony charge that was later dropped.

Greitens got a boost last week when former President Donald Trump told the Washington Examiner he was considering endorsing him.

Last year, Trump endorsed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Sean Parnell, who later dropped out after a judge ruled against him in a custody case in which his estranged wife alleged he had been abusive to her and their children. Parnell denied the allegations but said he was ending his campaign to focus on his children.

Greitens gave no indication Monday that he would end his Senate bid.

Campaign manager Dylan Johnson called Sheena Greitens "deranged" and said her "politically motivated" allegations were "outright lies."

A lawyer for Sheena Greitens did not respond to a request for comment.

Greitens admitted in 2018 that he had an affair with his hairstylist before his campaign for governor ahead of a local news report detailing the allegations. He was later indicted on an invasion-of-privacy charge, accused of taking a compromising photo of the hairstylist without her consent. The case was dropped after the picture couldn't be found.

In her affidavit, Sheena Greitens said her ex-husband acknowledged having snapped the photo of the hairstylist.

“Eric’s behavior also included threats in order to coerce me to do or to refrain from doing or saying certain things. After Eric admitted to me in late January 2021 that he had taken the photo that resulted in the invasion of privacy charge, he threatened that I would be exposed to legal jeopardy if I ever disclosed that fact to anyone, even family members or a therapist,” the affidavit said.

She also suggested that she stood by him when the affair became public because her pressured her to do so.

“In the spring and early summer of 2018, Eric repeatedly threatened to kill himself unless I provided specific public political support to him; multiple people other than myself were worried enough to intervene to limit Eric’s access to firearms on at least three separate occasions," she wrote.

The affidavit is part of a court filing in which Sheena Greitens seeks to have the custody case transferred to Texas, where she works and has lived with their two young children for almost two years.

"I firmly believe the state of Texas is better situated to protect me and/or our children," she wrote.

CORRECTION (March 22, 2022, 8:30 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the market NBC affiliate KOMU serves. It serves Columbia, Missouri, not St. Louis.