President Donald Trump declined Friday to back off his statements made at a Montana rally on Thursday that praised a past assault on a journalist by a US Congressman.
Trump appeared in Arizona today and was asked if he regretted jokingly lauding Rep. Greg Gianforte at a Thursday Make America Great Again rally in Missolua, Montana. Gianforte body-slammed Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs in 2017, a day before the elections, after taking umbrage at a question posed by the reporter.
“That was a different world. That was a different league, a different world,” Trump said, when asked about his remarks on the incident. He again called Gianforte “a great guy. Greg is a tremendous person and he’s a tough cookie. And I’ll stay with that.”
Trump’s timing on the Gianforte praise was strange, given that he has earlier expressed regret at the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and vowed “severe consequences” if the government of Saudi Arabia was involved in the murder.
Guardian US editor John Mulholland issued a statement on Trump’s Gianforte remarks.
“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 Gianforte assault saw the Congressman sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management classes. He pleaded guilty to violently assaulting Jacobs on May 24, 2017, the night before his election to the House of Representatives.
Gianforte won handily over his Democratic opponent, Rob Quist, by 50.2 percent to 44.1 percent.