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That tweet where a Missouri politician retracted accusations of sex slavery, explained

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

If you find the presidential election a bit too over the top, perhaps you should check out the aftermath of the GOP primary for the Missouri governor’s race:

Wait, what?

This really happened. John Brunner, one of the candidates in the primary, accused a contributor to one of his rivals, Eric Greitens, of owning a sex slave. The whole thing involved a mess of accusations, lawsuits, and countersuits. (Oh, and Greitens ended up winning the primary.)

Let’s back up. Missouri’s GOP gubernatorial primary had four candidates, and the two people here were the frontrunners: Brunner is the owner of Vi-Jon, a company making store-brand health and beauty products. Greitens is a former Navy SEAL who, among other things, made many ads of himself shooting guns.

Brunner had more political experience, having run in the 2012 Missouri Senate primary and lost to Todd Akin of “legitimate rape” infamy. Greitens had never run for office before, but he proved a prolific fundraiser.

One of Greitens’s donations came from Michael Goguen, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley who, after making the donation, was sued by a woman he met at a strip club who accused him of years of sexual abuse.

The woman, who says she was a victim of human trafficking, accused Goguen of “constant” sexual, physical, and emotional abuse between 2001 and 2014. (Her complaint is horrifying reading.) He has maintained that the relationship was consensual. After he agreed to pay her $40 million but only paid $10 million, she sued. He has countersued, saying that she’s trying to blackmail him.

The lawsuit is still making its way through the legal system, but Goguen lost his job at Sequoia Capital in March as a result — after he had donated $1 million to Greitens. (Missouri does not limit contributions to gubernatorial candidates.) After the facts of the lawsuit became public, Greitens’s opponents urged him to return the donation. But his campaign countered that they should wait for the accusations to be sorted out in court.

Brunner seized on the issue in the race’s final debate, saying, “I refuse to be lectured by a guy who took $1 million from the owner of a teenage sex slave.”

That comment provoked Goguen to sue Brunner, saying that the allegations against him were false, that the woman was not a teenager, and that she had never accused him of owning her. Brunner’s tweet is likely an attempt at damage control, now that the primary behind him.

Unsurprisingly, the whole thing has left the victor and runner-up not feeling particularly friendly toward one another: An event meant to showcase party unity was canceled today, citing “logistical issues.”

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