Have you ever heard the saying, “A fish rots from the head down?”
Pardon the cliche and hyperbole, but no more apropos slogan sums up the tone the Trump campaign and subsequent administration is creating when it comes to how it treats the press.
Is it any wonder, then, that a Republican candidate for Congress assaulted a reporter on Thursday after the reporter asked a “tough question” about the Republican healthcare plan? After all, isn’t that exactly what das fuhrer wants?
Greg Gianforte, Republican candidate for Montana’s lone congressional seat, has been charged with misdemeanor assault of Guardian political reporter Ben Jacobs. Audio footage indicates Gianforte body-slamming Jacobs, who reported from an ambulance:
“He took me to the ground. I think he wailed on me once or twice … He got on me and I think he hit me … This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
The incident occurred at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana Wednesday, the day before Montana’s special congressional election to replace Ryan Zinke, who was named to head the Interior Department.
The released audio clip contains Gianforte shouting:
“I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?”
The rest of the dialog follows with Jacobs saying:
“Yes! You just broke my glasses.”
Gianforte then fired back:
“The last guy did the same damn thing. Get the hell out of here!”
The “same damn thing” refers to the Guardian’s previous attempts to report on Gianforte.
“Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. [Field producer] Faith [Mangan], [photographer] Keith [Railey] and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ … To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”
Jacobs reported the incident to Gallatin county sheriff’s office, which stated Wednesday night it had completed its investigation and issued Gianforte with misdemeanor assault.
Aside from general frustration with the media, there may have been another reason Gianforte targeted Jacobs. According to The Guardian, on April 28, Jacobs reported on Gianforte’s US-sanctioned financial ties to Russian companies, and that Gianforte’s wealth is estimated at between $65 and $315 million.
Sheriff Brian Gootkin stated:
“Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin county sheriff’s office, it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault. The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault. Greg Gianforte received a citation on Wednesday night and is scheduled to appear in Gallatin county justice court between now and 7 June 2017.”
This concerns not only Montana voters, but all of the nation, as some are seeing the violent incident as indicative of practices President Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has condoned.
Gerry Connolly (D-Va), who represents Virginia’s eleventh congressional district, tweeted:
Physical violence and abuse of media are hallmarks in Trump era. Disgusting. We need to call it out.
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) May 25, 2017
Hopefully this is a fluke, speaking of a fish rotting from the head down. However, we must be careful about dismissing violence against the media as irrelevant. Trump has made his disdain for the First Amendment well known. In fact, he’s considered amending or abolishing it.
We will see how Wednesday’s incident affects Montana’s election. It’s definitely not one we’re bound to soon forget.
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