“There is no time where physical altercation should occur, with the press – or just between human beings,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told a Capitol Hill room filled with the former species. He was addressing reporters the morning after GOP House candidate Greg Gianforte of Montana was charged with allegedly body slamming and hitting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
“Should the gentleman apologize? Yes, I think he should apologize,” Ryan continued at his weekly news conference, while cautioning that Gianforte has “his own version” of what happened Wednesday night at his campaign headquarters. According to the reporter and other witnesses, Gianforte attacked Jacobs after being asked about CBO’s score of the House Trumpcare plan.
Montana’s three biggest newspapers pulled their endorsement of the GOP’s millionaire candidate after the incident. Ryan, however, declined to weigh in, insisting “the people of the state of Montana are going to decide today who they will send to Congress. If he wins, he has been chosen by the people of Montana who their congressman is going to be. I’m going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative.”
When pressed, he acknowledged: “I do not think this is acceptable behavior. But the choice will be made by the people of Montana.”
TV news outlets have been gnawing all morning on the incident, which occurred on the eve of today’s special election in Montana. Gianforte is running to replace Ryan Zinke, who now is serving as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, for one, called it unsurprising in this “age of Trump”: “All three papers overnight took their endorsements away from this Republican guy,” the morning host marveled. “It’s that incredible. A guy assaults a reporter, which I guess shouldn’t be too surprising in an age of Trump where he calls the press ‘enemy of the people.’ These reckless words have consequences.”
Willie Geist them chined in, “This candidate had also said things Trumpian about the press.”
CNN’s New Day also got in on the fun, landing Jacobs’ first TV interview since the brawl. Asked by Chris Cuomo if the candidate’s statement about the incident is accurate, Jacobs answered: “They got my name right, they got my employer right. But, other than that, there was not a single factually correct element there. It was totally false.” Another witness account, from Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, would seem to back up Jacobs.
For the record, here is the Gianforte campaign’s account of last night’s incident involving what they called the “liberal journalist” like they meant that to sting:
“Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions…Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”