Trump Praises House Candidate For Assaulting Reporter

President Trump is heaping praise on a Congressman who physically assaulted a reporter.

Last year, Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte was charged with assault after a run-in with Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian who was in Montana covering the Special Election in which Gianforte was running to replace Ryan Zinke, who President Trump had selected to become Secretary of the Interior. During the incident in question, which Jacobs captured in audio form on his smartphone, Gianforte attacked Jacobs after he had asked a question. Gianforte was ultimately charged with assault in the case but quickly settled with Jacobs and pled guilty to the crime, for which he ultimately received a sentence that involved anger management counseling and community service but no jail time. Notwithstanding the assault, which occurred in the closing days of the campaign, Gianforte ultimately went on to win the election and is now running for a full term in the midterm election that is now less than twenty years away.

Last night, President Trump held a campaign rally in Montana that was mainly meant to boost the campaign of Republican Senate nominee Matt Rosendale, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Senator Jon Tester, but that didn’t stop the President from bringing up the Gianforte incident, and heaping praise on the Congressman for breaking the law:

MISSOULA, Mont. — President Donald Trump on Thursday openly praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter in his bid for Congress last year, as the United States faced an unfolding crisis over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who is believed to have been killed by Saudi Arabian agents.

The remarks from Trump at a campaign rally — staged at an airport hangar here with a mountainous backdrop — drew boisterous cheers from the conservative crowd, who applauded as Trump noted of Gianforte: ”By the way, never wrestle him.”

“Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of — he’s my guy,” Trump said.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, an altercation that occurred in the final days of Gianforte’s special election race in May 2017 when Jacobs tried to interview him about the GOP health-care plan. The then-candidate grabbed Jacobs, threw him to the ground and punched him. Gianforte subsequently won the special election, and later pleaded guilty, receiving a six-month deferred sentence.

Trump had referenced the assault during a campaign swing in Billings, Mont., in September, noting in almost a winking manner to the crowd that Gianforte ”has fought — in more ways than one — for your state.”

But in Missoula on Thursday — a liberal enclave in the state surrounded by conservative territory — Trump went much further in his praise.

Trump recalled that as he was traveling in Rome last May, he heard that Gianforte had body-slammed a journalist shortly before voters went to the polls in his closely contested election race — and initially thought the altercation would damage Gianforte’s prospects.

“Then I said, ‘well wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him,'” Trump told the crowd in Missoula. “And it did.”

In a statement, the Guardian’s U.S. editor denounced Trump’s remarks as “an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.”

“The President of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian,” editor John Mulholland said, adding that in the wake of Khashoggi’s death, Trump’s statement “runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats.”

“We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them,” he said.

Amber Phillips at The Washington Post comments:

The president celebrating physical violence against a journalist would be notable enough in a vacuum. But it comes during a week in which there is international outrage against the probable killing of another journalist, Jamal Khashoggi

Trump seems aware of the impact his divisive words against journalists carry — and he uses them anyway. He frequently calls the press “the enemy of the people.” His White House press secretary refused to condemn Trump supporters’ profanity directed at CNN’s Jim Acosta at a recent rally.

At a rally in September in Montana, Trump hinted that he was proud of Gianforte for the attack against Guardian reporter Jacobs. That drew headlines too, though his words were less blunt than his comments Thursday.

“And I’ll tell you what, this man has fought — in more ways than one — for your state,” Trump said then.

On Thursday, Trump tacked on at the very end an acknowledgment about how it might get him in trouble: “I shouldn’t say this.”

In that “60 Minutes” interview about Khashoggi, Trump acknowledged that he wasn’t the likeliest candidate to stand up for a reporter’s disappearance:

“There’s a lot at stake. And maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There’s something — you’ll be surprised to hear me say that. There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case.”

It’s generally not surprising to hear a president condemn violence against a journalist. It is surprising to hear him condone it.

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt says much the same thing:

Since he began running for president in 2015, Trump has tried to discredit almost any independent source of information he did not like — be it from journalists, federal judges, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the Congressional Budget Office or scientists. Trump has also repeatedly encouraged or praised violence committed by people he considers allies against people he does not.

Trump is not — thank goodness — an autocratic ruler of the United States. But he is behaving like one. Encouraging violence against political opponents is no joke when it comes from the president. It is a classic tool of autocracy. And it’s one more sign that Trump does not accept fundamental tenets of democracy, including the rule of law.

The president, writes The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, “tonight celebrates an assault on a reporter in Montana at the same time as his Administration tries to minimize the murder of a reporter in Turkey. His words matter, and they reveal his character.”

Here’s the video:

Coming from any other President, of course, this would be surprising and shocking. Coming from Trump, it’s just another example of his disdain for political and social norms and his utter contempt for the media and freedom of the press. This, after all, is the President who has referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” on many occasions. On other occasions, both he and members of his Administration has suggested that the media should be criminally charged for publishing leaked information even when that information isn’t classified. At a rally in Arizona last year, Trump upped his anti-media rhetoric by referring to members of the media as ”sick people” who “don’t like our country,” and who are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.” Recently, Trump admitted that when he said that when he refers to “Fake News” he means any news coverage that is critical of him or his Administration regardless of whether it’s true or not. Finally, the President has admitted that the purpose behind all of these attacks on the media is quite simple in that it is aimed at discrediting the media in the minds of his supportersso that they won’t believe any of the bad news that is reported about his or his Administration.

Taking all that into account, it’s hardly surprising that the same President who calls the media the “enemy of the people” would cheer on a Republican candidate who physically attacked a reported without provocation, or that the crowd he was speaking to would cheer it on in the rather sick manner that they did. This is the America Donald Trump is creating, and these are the people who support him.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Congress, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    So now the party of “Law and Order” supports and cheers convicted felons for Congress.

    Keep that in mind.

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  2. Franklin says:

    @Kathy: But Clinton?

    /here before somebody seriously says something like that

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  3. Kylopod says:

    * After a protester at one of his rallies was beaten up and called racial epithets, Trump said “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”

    * As a protester was being escorted out, he said “Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court, don’t worry about it”?

    * “I love the old days, you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out in a stretcher, folks… I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.”

    Sarah Sanders: “The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”

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  4. Mr. Prosser says:

    trump is not doing the candidate any favors by reminding voters the guy is a confessed assaulter. Running tape of trump’s tirade over and over would be good for the guilty rep’s opponent

  5. Gustopher says:

    Apparently, the new normal is the President supporting those who physically assault and murder their critics. Go figure.

    Tucker Carlson should probably avoid post offices and other federal buildings during the upcoming Booker administration. Send the intern to mail that package, Tucks.

    Corey Booker will claim it was the postmaster general who somehow misheard instructions.

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  6. Gustopher says:

    Seriously, though, is this anything other than Trump letting his annoyance show about having to help make excuses for MBS butchering one of his critics? Why are people so worked up about a worthless little reporter? Maybe he couldn’t get away with shooting someone on fifth avenue.

    Trump disgusts me.

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But of course he did.

    Gianforte ultimately went on to win the election and is now running for a full term in the midterm election that is now less than twenty years away.

    Whew. I’d hate to have to listen to his adds for more than 20 years. 😉

    @Kylopod:

    I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya, but I don’t have the balls. So do it for me, will ya guys?

  8. reid says:

    And these people thought Obama wasn’t presidential. (Said for the 10,00th time.)

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  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    A free press is right there in the Constitution…you know…the one the POTUS is sworn to uphold.

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  10. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    “Cease quoting laws to us that have swords.” Pompeii the Great.

  11. SenyorDave says:

    The first ten questions of the next press briefing should be something like “does President Trump regret endorsing violence against the press”. When Sanders refuses to answer the first question, the next one should be the same question.

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  12. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy: Such a great quote.

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  13. Pylon says:

    @reid:

    Well he did wear a tan suit once.

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  14. CSK says:

    Trump’s fan club loves this. Really loves it. It shows them he’s fighting for them, you know.

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  15. Hal_10000 says:

    One of the best insights into this came from one of my co-bloggers at OT who argues that Trump’s behavior is best understood through the lens of professional wrestling, with the press cast into the role of the heel. It is, for the most part, entertainment for the masses (while serving a secondary purpose of disinformation).

    Of course, Trump is now standing around doing nothing while one of our allies butchered a journalist. We need a President who defends the media rather than attacking them.

    And, at the risk of being accused of Whataboutism in the First Degree, I’d add that this has been building for years. Democrats have attacked Fox News for years. Bush and Obama persecuted James Risen. Obama persecuted James Rosen and spied on the AP. FOIA denials have been rising for many years through several administrations. Like every other bad thing done by his predecessors, however, Trump has amped this up to 11. And the risk of this resulting in real violence against the media is significant.

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  16. An Interested Party says:

    …Trump’s behavior is best understood through the lens of professional wrestling, with the press cast into the role of the heel.

    That’s pretty pathetic that people would equate politicians, who pass laws that affect our lives, with professional wrestling…that plays into the worst stereotypes of Americans being uneducated and ignorant…

    And, at the risk of being accused of Whataboutism in the First Degree…

    I don’t recall any Democratic politician who body-slammed a member of the press or any Democratic leader who openly called for members of the press to be attacked and who referred to them as “the enemy”…

  17. Scott O says:

    @Hal_10000: With all due respect, this

    Trump’s behavior is best understood through the lens of professional wrestling, with the press cast into the role of the heel. It is, for the most part, entertainment for the masses
    is not good. It’s not just the press. Trump belittles and insults many others. I think this is dangerous. This is not entertainment, this is stirring up hatred.

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  18. Modulo Myself says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Obama loved the security state and he loved protecting it from leakers, and that was very wrong. But there are actual laws governing information in this country for government officials, and Obama had the law on his side, as Hillary found out with her server and the frothing masses freaking out over top-secret classification nonsense.

    This is not about laws. Not yet, at least. The reporter asked a question, and white trash Republicans don’t like questions. They like asking poor people for serious amounts of identification in order to vote and they got off on demanding that nobody heckle crank bigots as they wonder if African-Americans are genetically inferior. Their cops who like to pull you over, kick out your lights, and then give you a ticket. But they don’t like free speech when it’s directed at them. They loathe it to the center of their corpulent waddling mass. So this has nothing to do with Obama. It’s about propaganda and libertarian free-speech bs and the alleged hatred of ‘PC’ by people who cower at the truth.

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  19. An Interested Party says:

    Has anyone else seen this piece about Max Boot? It’s a fascinating exploration of how the GOP has gone off the rails…

    Boot acknowledges that he, too, subscribed to this myth. But revisiting that past, he discovers something very familiar. Conservatism trafficked all along in anti-intellectualism, bigotry, ideological radicalism, and loopy conspiracy theories. The conservative movement was a revolt against the moderation of mainstream Republicans like Dwight Eisenhower while fiercely defending the vicious lies of Joe McCarthy. Buckley renounced the president of the John Birch Society while continuing to endorse the organization itself, which was a large and powerful constituency. While most mainstream Republicans at the time supported civil rights, conservatives opposed those mainstream leaders for that very reason. Conservatives understood very clearly at the time that their project of turning the Republican Party into a vehicle for conservatism required prying millions of white segregationists from the Democratic Party.

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  20. An Interested Party says:

    @One American: Wow…even for you, that was pathetic…congratulations…

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  21. James Pearce says:

    @One American:

    flies off to Vegas while our men are getting slaughtered in Benghazi or mass shootings at softball games, and on and on.

    No, no, the mass shootings are in Vegas and the president is at his golf resort in Florida.

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  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    The parallels of history shouldn’t be forgotten, lest they be repeated again and again.

    Once upon a time, another authoritarian regime began by supplying a common villain upon which all of the “good” people should lay the blame for their woes. The program of disinformation and policy enactments that regime began,designed to dehumanize that “other”, should look familiar to contemporary observers.

    Before any of the resident trolls pop up with their chorus of “America is so super special that something like that can’t happen here”, my family had lived peacefully and successfully in Germany for some 400 years. They’re all dead now.

    It can happen anywhere.

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  23. steve says:

    “Let me know when he actually body slams someone like the antifa freaks”

    Our elected Congressmen should have the exact same standards as anonymous people wearing masks while breaking the law. Got it!

    Steve

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  24. PJ says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The parallels of history shouldn’t be forgotten, lest they be repeated again and again.

    Once upon a time, another authoritarian regime began by supplying a common villain upon which all of the “good” people should lay the blame for their woes. The program of disinformation and policy enactments that regime began,designed to dehumanize that “other”, should look familiar to contemporary observers.

    Before any of the resident trolls pop up with their chorus of “America is so super special that something like that can’t happen here”, my family had lived peacefully and successfully in Germany for some 400 years. They’re all dead now.

    It can happen anywhere.

    On the subject of comparing them to Nazis.

    Mike Goodwin:

    By all means, compare these sh*theads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you.

    5:03 PM – 13 Aug 2017

    (Bleeped word not bleeped in tweet.)

  25. Tyrell says:

    @Scott O: I am certainly against agitation of violence, disrupting behavior, and rude, impolite sorts of dialogue and actions. People used to discuss different views in a normal tone of voice and would not dare to insult others. And not just with politicians In recent years it seems that some of the main stream news networks have become more antagonistic, destructive, and loud. That is very poor manners and not professional. I remember Matthews used to be a reasonable and pleasant commentator. Now it seems he is always mad, hollers at people, and has a political agenda instead of reporting facts and both sides of issues. Rarely does he talk about anything but Trump: “Trump Watch” nonsense. I did not hear much from him about Hurricane Michael. In the past he would have been out there on the scene.
    I don’t recall David Brinkley or Charles Kuralt on tv hollering at people.
    Ted Koppel and Ted Turner have recently expressed their opinions about the sad state of today’s news.

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  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @PJ:

    Mmhmm. The single response in that thread that has always stood out at me was the one about “everybody laughed at the Nazis, until it wasn’t safe to laugh any longer. Take them seriously”.

    I do, for obvious reasons. Others should, at the risk of their own peril. The US is about one economic collapse away from going over the same precipice.

    It can happen anywhere.

  27. Teve says:

    @An Interested Party:

    That’s pretty pathetic that people would equate politicians, who pass laws that affect our lives, with professional wrestling…that plays into the worst stereotypes of Americans being uneducated and ignorant…

    I don’t remember which GOP politician it was who said, “We can’t nominate Trump, because that would prove every liberal stereotype about conservatives is true.”

  28. charon says:
  29. charon says:

    There is an excerpt from a Slate piece at my link, here is some additional stuff from the Slate piece:

    The only true rule of Trumpism: be the sorest winner imaginable.

    Here’s one possible test. A recent poll asked the multiple-choice question: “If the charge of sexual assault during a party in high school by Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh is true, do you think Brett Kavanaugh …” Fifty-four percent of Republicans filled in that blank with “should be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

    I will not forget that.

    This is the story of what the party of power has done. Roy Moore received 48.4 percent of the vote in Alabama. Donald Trump is president. Brett Kavanaugh is a Supreme Court justice. The no-longer-tacit approval of abuse and humiliation is the ethos running the country. Those in power would like very much to derail us into defending our right to be angry. They would like for the issue to be that angry people are being uncivil.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/anger-in-america-trumpism-incivility.html

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  30. charon says:
  31. charon says:

    I suppose one thing anger affects is voter turnout, and we are seeing pretty high voter turnout this election – good job getting people angry, Dollhands.

  32. Teve says:

    Eventually the GOP will be running Proud Boys for congress.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Yeah, but only because every liberal stereotype about conservatives is true.

  34. Teve says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Yeah I think it’s been interesting reading Max Boot over the last few weeks as he says, paraphrasing, “Did I overlook anti-intellectualism, racism, homophobia, greed, etc, for decades? Shit, I guess I did.”

  35. Mister Bluster says:

    @One American:..Let me know when he actually body slams someone…

    Every thinking Citizen knows he is too big a coward to do that himself. He will goad one of his toadies into doing his dirty work for him and then send the stooge to the Saudi Embassy in Turkey to experience the pleasures of a glowing orb!

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  36. Scott O says:

    @Tyrell:
    Why do you keep posting this all in your head good old days bs? Do you think you’re persuanding anyone? I don’t do much TV so I havent seen Mathews for about a decade. But out of curiosity today I downloaded a couple of his shows and listened to them while contemplating doing something useful like yard work. I didn’t hear any anger or hollering. Do you watch his show or do you watch Hannity telling you what happens on Hardball?

    Your whataboutism is weak. Even if Chris Mathews was holding rallies and encouraging hatred I would still think that it’s an order of magnitude worse when the president of the United States does so.

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  37. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Scott O:

    It’s a performance. To be frank not entirely a badly conducted one, but a performance piece nonetheless. It’s troll theater.

  38. Kylopod says:

    @HarvardLaw92: If it’s a performance, I give it a D-. He’s one of the few resident trolls whose comments make my eyes glaze over.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: He’s Emily Litella with out the “never mind” afterwords. link