Last night, at his rally in Missoula to campaign for Montana Representative Greg Gianforte, The Guardian reports that President Trump praised the Representative who pleaded guilty last year to assaulting a reporter, saying, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy. He’s my guy.”
To the laughter and cheers of the rally attendees, Trump opined, “Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. Never. Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy. He’s my guy. I shouldn’t say that, cause I’ll be… There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
He explained that he was in Rome when he heard about the assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs that occured on May 24, 2017, the day before the special election Gianforte was running in. Trump stated he initially thought that Gianforte might lose his special election but then thought better of it.
“Oh this is terrible, he’s going to lose the election. Then I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him. And it did. He’s a great guy. A tough cookie.'”
The Guardian points out that, while President Trump’s relationship with the media is tense and even belligerent at times, he has never before publicly praised a physical attack on a journalist.
A Fox News team, including Alicia Acuna, witnessed the attack on Jacobs, which came after he asked the candidate a question about healthcare.
The Fox News team states, “At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”
The Guardian has released a video of Jacobs giving his account of what occurred that day. Audio of the assault is included, as well as Jacobs explaining that the source of this attack comes down to personal responsibility on the part of Gianforte, who won the election in spite of the attack. Jacobs states that he has asked many politicians questions, including members of the Trump administration, and never before been attacked.
Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault and pleaded guilty. He was given a 180-day deferred sentence, according to the AP, and was ordered to pay a $385 fine, complete 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management classes.
He also issued an apology to Ben Jacobs, who was treated for an elbow injury at the hospital. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”
President Trump praising of an assault on a member of the free press is particularly noteworthy as the facts regarding the disappearance and presumed murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who resided in Virginia and wrote for the Washington Post, become clear.
The Guardian released a statement soon after the president’s comments.
In a statement, the Guardian US editor, John Mulholland, said: “The president of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian. To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the first amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.
“In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it 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.”The Guardian
President Trump’s praise of the violence aimed at Jacobs was roundly condemned by journalists, as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May and former congressman Joe Walsh, who pointed out on Twitter that Republicans can no longer be offended by violence from the left when the president applauds violence towards a journalist.