- November 5, 2021
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Scenes are in a new light following explosive allegations from Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate’s estranged wife.
Sean Parnell walks through people gathered at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump. | Keith Srakocic/AP Photo
By NATALIE ALLISON
11/02/2021 04:43 PM EDT
Updated: 11/02/2021 05:27 PM EDT
Sean Parnell’s military thriller “Man of War” contains graphic scenes of violence against female characters, raising additional questions about his attitude toward women in the wake of court testimony that he physically and verbally abused his estranged wife.
Parnell, who has emerged as the frontrunner in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary, portrays multiple scenes of men assaulting women in the 2018 novel, the first of four in a fiction series written by the Army combat veteran.
Those scenes are in a new light following his wife Laurie Snell’s testimony under oath Monday that her husband strangled her and assaulted their children. Those were among the explosive allegations made in a child custody hearing, an account of which was reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“He tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him,” Snell said in a Butler, Pa. courtroom, according to the Inquirer. “He was strangling me.”
Snell’s tearful testimony included a claim that Parnell pinned her down and called her a “whore” and “piece of s—,” the newspaper reported.
In a statement afterward, Parnell said Snell’s testimony was false, and that “the truth will prevail” once he can make his case in court next week.
“In court the mother of my children made a number of false allegations against me,” Parnell said. “Those allegations are lies. There is no truth to them, not one. They are complete fabrications; not distortions or misrepresentations — just flat-out lies.”
In “Man of War,” Parnell features several scenes in which women were battered and smacked, describing female characters being dragged across the floor and pulled by their hair — and the attackers reveling in their pain.
“Nate grabbed a handful of Meg’s hair and roughly forced her head around,” Parnell wrote of a female CIA agent being beaten by a rogue military official who “savored the grimace of pain that flitted across her face and the fear that sparked in her eyes.”
“When she tried to jerk free, he struck a blade against her cheek and smiled at the involuntary flinch caused by the cold steel touching warm flesh,” the book says.
The man in the scene then strangled the woman. She was zip-tied, dragged and punched “hard in the side of the head” as she struggled with the man, according to the passage. Elsewhere, Parnell described the woman as someone male colleagues “just wanted to f—,” including one who “kept staring at her tits.”
In another scene, Parnell describes three men preparing to gang-rape a woman while her crying children huddled under a table and watched. One of the men, whom he noted was twice the size of the woman, had “a toothy grin spread across his face.”
Elsewhere in Parnell’s first book, a different female character seduced — and then physically and verbally abused — a younger woman, calling her a “little coke whore.” The older woman “liked the flicker of pain” in her younger target’s eyes, Parnell wrote.
His campaign did not directly respond to a question about why he described, in multiple scenes in the book, attackers taking pleasure in their assaults on women.
Parnell, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, hasn’t attempted to conceal his fiction-writing career. While the campaign website only mentions the title of Parnell’s nonfiction 2016 New York Times best-seller “Outlaw Platoon,” an account of his military service in Afghanistan a decade earlier, it acknowledges he has authored multiple fiction books.
His other works of fiction don’t feature comparable scenes of violence against women, according to a review of the books by POLITICO.
Parnell, who attended Ranger school and was part of the 10th Mountain Division, receiving specialized training for combat in rugged elements, was able to draw from his own military and experience to include real-world details in his military thriller novels.
His campaign has dismissed attacks on his character, releasing internal polling last week that showed him with a 20-point lead over the other Republicans — with 57 percent of GOP primary voters still undecided in the race.
The seat held by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey is crucial for the GOP to defend in 2022 to take the Senate majority, and the new assault allegations could present a significant obstacle for Parnell in the primary while calling into question his viability as a candidate.
The new accusations make Parnell the third leading GOP Senate candidate this cycle to face claims of domestic or sexual abuse. Retired football star Herschel Walker — also endorsed by Trump — leads in the Georgia GOP primary, despite recent news coverage of his ex-wife securing a protective order against him in 2005, alleging violent behavior. She previously said Walker pointed a gun at her head and threatened to kill her.
In Missouri, attack ads are already on the air targeting former Gov. Eric Greitens, who was accused of tying up his former hairdresser in his basement and sexually assaulting her. A Missouri legislative committee that investigated the claims described the woman as a “credible witness.”
Jeff Bartos, one of Parnell’s top Republican opponents in the Pennsylvania race, quickly began attacking Parnell as anti-woman after Parnell received the Trump endorsement in September. Days after Trump’s announcement, the Bartos campaign distributed police reports showing Snell had taken out protective orders against him. The temporary orders, which Snell obtained in 2017 and 2018, were later expunged by judge.
“It’s beyond absurd” that the media and Bartos’ campaign “are so obsessed with smearing American war hero and New York Times bestselling author Sean Parnell that they are now trying to hold him personally responsible for the actions of made-up characters in his works of fiction that do not exist in real life,” campaign spokesperson Ian Prior said in an emailed statement last week that also noted that Bartos interned in the Bill Clinton White House. “What’s next, a bombshell exposé attacking Sean Parnell for his time overseas fighting terrorists?”
Ahead of this week’s child custody hearings, a judge denied Parnell’s requests for a gag order against his wife. Parnell is scheduled to make his arguments in the case next week.
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