In May 2017, the day before a congressional special election in Montana, Republican Greg Gianforte, physically assaulted a reporter. As regular readers probably recall, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs pressed Gianforte with a substantive question about health care policy, and the GOP candidate responded by attacking the journalist, throwing him to the ground, and breaking his glasses.
Gianforte and his campaign lied to the public about the unprovoked violence – they issued a public statement accusing Jacobs of instigating the physical altercation, despite an audio recording that proved otherwise – and we later learned that the Montanan lied to the police, too.
Gianforte nevertheless won his election, and after the votes were counted, he pleaded guilty to assault. The congressman was sentenced to, among other things, 20 hours of anger management classes.
Campaigning in Montana last night, Donald “Law and Order” Trump stood alongside the Republican lawmaker and expressed his support for his attack. From the transcript:
“Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that? Never.
“Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy. He’s my guy. I shouldn’t say that – there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
“So I was in Rome with a lot of the leaders from other countries talking about all sorts of things, and I heard about it. And we endorsed Greg very early, but I had heard that he body-slammed a reporter. And he was way up. And he was way up. And I said, ‘Oh,’ this was like the day of the election, or just before, and I said, ‘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!”
The Republicans on hand for the rally roared in approval.
We continue to learn quite a bit about the scope of Trump’s principles. The president purports to cherish law enforcement and the rule of law, but he also celebrates a congressman’s unprovoked attack against a journalist – an incident about which the congressman lied to law enforcement.
This also comes against a backdrop in which the White House appears a little too eager to defend an authoritarian regime in Saudi Arabia against allegations that it murdered a U.S.-based journalist.
This is the same American leader, of course, who’s also heavily invested in the idea that his domestic opponents have become a dangerous mob – a line he repeated at his campaign rally last night. In fact, the president twice said last night that Democrats “don’t care about crime,” just minutes after he applauded Greg Gianforte’s assault, a crime for which he pleaded guilty.
Trump can celebrate the rule of law, or he can applaud unprovoked violence against American journalists. But to do both at the same time is bonkers.