ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) – A video showing two Republican state senators in Missouri using flamethrowers at a fundraiser is drawing fire around the world.
Social media posts claim they are burning books, though those posts are false.
Still, Democrats are using the claims and the video to boost fundraising.
The senators, Nick Schroer and Bill Eigel, were using the flamethrowers at the Freedom Fest fundraiser on Friday at the Sugar Creek Winery in Defiance, Missouri. They were asked to do so, they said, because a flamethrower was being offered as a prize at the event’s raffle.
Schroer and Eigel — the latter of whom is a candidate for Missouri governor — told Nexstar’s KTVI they were demonstrating the flamethrowers on a stack of cardboard boxes to boost interest in the raffle.
But a post on X (formerly Twitter) had claimed the senators were setting fire to a stack of books. The post had drawn nearly 20 million views by Tuesday evening, with many commenters tying the allegations to Missouri’s recent ban on books with images deemed sexually explicit — a hot-button issue.
The senators say there were no books in the boxes and that the book ban issue never came up at the event.
Sen. Schroer said he was actually more concerned about the Bud Light/Dylan Mulvaney transgender controversy.
“I said, ‘Well, I’m glad there’s no Bud Light boxes (in the burning stacks) because once this hits the media, that would become the story.’ Little did I know people would just make up what was happening,” he said.
“There are French outlets posting about this (false claim) in the city of Paris,” said Sen. Eigel. “It tells you how quickly a lie can travel.”
Schroer said they’d been bombarded with hate messages.
“We were called Nazis, KKK members; every name under the sun,” he said.
“I can assure you, we did not have this mind,” Eigel said.
State Rep. Crystal Quade of Springfield, a Democratic candidate for governor, reposted the video with the false book-burning claim, saying in the post, “If you agree we need more books … fewer flamethrowers, I hope you’ll chip in to join our campaign.”
“Sure, folks on Twitter (X) were not sure what was going on, but the intention was very clear, what these guys were doing … referencing things that we know historically are very damaging and scary for a lot of people in our country,” she said of the video.
Eigel further fueled the controversy by addressing the book-banning issue online.
“You bring those woke pornographic books to Missouri schools to try to brainwash our kids, and I’ll burn those too — on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion,” he wrote.
Eigel’s X account was suspended for about 5 hours after the post.
“Our elected leaders shouldn’t be burning boxes or burning books or burning anything,” Quade said. “I think what’s important here is that we have a gubernatorial candidate who literally said I will burn books on the lawn of the governor’s mansion.”
“It wasn’t even a story until folks who oppose me decided to spread a very malicious lie about it,” he said. “If I had no choice between a bonfire and protecting those kids from having this type of material in their hands, I would do what was necessary.”
“To have someone like Crystal Quade, the minority leader, taking the bait of these people on social media and promoting that fake news … I think Republicans and Democrats should agree to not spread divisiveness, to not spread hate and propaganda,” Sen. Schroer said. “I think this is the perfect time to reflect on what is true before I share an article, before I share a social media post.”