‘He Was Choking Me’: Wife of Trump-Backed Senate Candidate Says He Abused Her

In a custody hearing, Sean Parnell’s wife said he physically and emotionally abused their children, too.
In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Pennsylvania congressional nominee Sean Parnell addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Rep
Pennsylvania congressional nominee Sean Parnell addresses the virtual Reconvention on August 24, 2020. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

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The wife of a top Republican Senate candidate backed by former President Donald Trump testified under oath Monday that he physically and emotionally abused both her and their children.

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Laurie Snell testified in family court at the start of a three-day custody trial that her husband, former House candidate Sean Parnell, once “tried to choke me out on a couch, and I literally had to bite him.”

“He was strangling me,” she told the court, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

On another occasion, she alleged, Parnell pinned her while calling her a “whore” and a “piece of shit.” And Snell testified that while traveling for Thanksgiving in 2008, before they were married, Parnell made her get out of their car and screamed at her to “go get an abortion.” Parnell’s Senate campaign website says he’s “pro-life and will always vote to protect the unborn.”

Snell also said that he hit their children, once allegedly slapping one child so hard that it left a welt on their back. 

Snell and Parnell married in 2010 and separated in 2018, the year Snell alleges Parnell began physically abusing their children. 

Parnell, who did not testify Monday, disputed his wife’s accusations. “Let me emphatically state: I have never raised a hand in anger toward my wife or any of our three children,” Parnell said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “What happened today in court was not justice, nor did it have any basis in fact or truth.“

Though the 2022 midterms are more than a year away, Trump endorsed Parnell in September, giving him his “Complete and Total Endorsement” and calling him a “great candidate, who got robbed in his congressional run in the Crime of the Century—the 2020 Presidential Election Scam.”

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Parnell did not get “robbed.” He lost by nearly 10,000 votes to incumbent Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, but like Trump, refused to concede

Regardless, due to endorsements from Trump and other top Republicans like Sen. Josh Hawley and U.S. Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Jim Banks, Parnell—a retired U.S. Army captain who spent more than a year in Afghanistan and later wrote a memoir about it—has emerged as an early front-runner for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey. 

The Pennsylvania Senate election is likely to be one of the closest next year, and could be decisive in determining control of the chamber; Democratic candidates include Lamb and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who previously ran for Senate in 2016. 

Parnell isn’t the first Trump-endorsed 2022 candidate to face domestic violence accusations. The ex-wife of Georgia Senate candidate and former NFL star Herschel Walker—who is also backed by Sen. Mitch McConnell—accused him of threatening to kill her on multiple occasions, and a Texas judge temporarily prohibited Walker from possessing guns, according to a July AP report

And former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote an op-ed last month in which she publicly  accused former Trump aide Max Miller, now a Trump-backed Ohio congressional candidate, of assaulting her while the two were in a relationship and working at the White House together. She also accused Trump and first lady Melania Trump of failing to take action when she informed them about the alleged assault.

Miller immediately filed a defamation lawsuit against Grisham, and his lawyer told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that Grisham’s allegations were “absolutely untrue.”