- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2016

BRENTWOOD, Mo. (AP) - Supporters of Missouri’s two major party candidates for governor gathered Thursday in the same building for news conferences 15 minutes apart to criticize the other candidate’s record on women’s issues.

The Missouri Democratic Party originally scheduled its 10 a.m. news conference at the Brentwood Community Center in suburban St. Louis to call on Republican candidate Eric Greitens to stop using a TV ad featuring a Vietnam veteran named Robert Murphy. Murphy is the lone speaker in the ad, criticizing Greitens‘ Democratic opponent, Attorney General Chris Koster.

The Democrats cited Murphy’s personal Facebook page, which has re-posted internet memes that among other things have disparaged Muslims and joked about the different ways in which liberal and conservative women fight off rapists. They also cited the fact that Greitens accepted a $1 million campaign donation from Michael Goguen, a California venture capitalist accused of sexual abuse in a pending civil lawsuit. Goguen has denied the allegations.

Austin Chambers, a spokesman for Greitens, said Murphy fought for the right to free speech, even if what he says or posts isn’t something Greitens agrees with.

“The Democrats are trying to make something out of nothing,” Chambers said.

The Greitens campaign responded with a news conference of its own - 15 minutes before the Democratic event.

Former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, backed by about two dozen women, cited Koster’s 2007 vote against a bill aimed at helping victims of sexual abuse, including ending the practice of requiring rape victims to pay for their own medical exams after the assault. The measure passed.

They also criticized Koster for accepting $12,000 in campaign contributions from a firm that lobbies for backpage.com, which allows ads that critics say promote sex trafficking.

Koster spokesman David Turner said Koster voted against the 2007 bill because it contained a provision that could have freed convicted killers from prison.

“The idea Attorney General Koster wants rape victims to pay for their own rape kits is beyond ludicrous,” Turner said in an emailed statement.

The close proximity led to a brief confrontation when about a half-dozen Greitens supporters entered the Democratic news conference and refused to leave. But the Greitens supporters stood silent during the Democratic event, then left with no words exchanged.

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