First a classroom fist fight between teachers, and now this.
Last night Republican Greg Gianforte, in a close and closely watched contest with Democrat Rob Quist to fill the open, and only, Montana Congressional seat in today’s special election, snapped and attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian. You can read the account of a witness (from Fox News) here, and the recording above seems to confirm it. The aspiringg statesman was charged with misdemeanor assault.
This passage from The Missoulian’s editorial this morning is a succinct summary:
“We will leave it to the legal system to determine his guilt or innocence.But there is no doubt that Gianforte committed an act of terrible judgment that, if it doesn’t land him in jail, also shouldn’t land him in the U.S. House of Representatives. He showed Wednesday night that he lacks the experience, brains and abilities to effectively represent Montana in any elected office.”
Meanwhile, Gianforte’s campaign put out a self-indicting statement to spin the episode, reinforcing the conclusion that Gianforte shouldn’t be, and can’t be trusted, except perhaps as a teacher at the Stone Mountain Middle School. It said that the reporter,
“entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions….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.”
The reporter also apparently was a ventriloquist, and made it sound like the candidate was was screaming at him.
Republican leadership and the national organization have chosen to keep mum, hoping that the incident will go away and that today’s election will somehow stick Montana with an unstable—but conservative!—jerk as its representative in the House. Cowards. A party with integrity would release this statement:
“The Republican Party deplores the disgraceful conduct of Greg Gianforte, and withdraws its support and endorsement of his candidacy for the open seat that is at stake in today’s special election in Montana. We urge Montanans to vote for the only responsible candidate in the race, Democrat Rob Quist, and apologize profusely to Republicans as well as all Montanans for failing our duty to nominate qualified, trustworthy candidates. Our party pledges to do better, much better, in the future.”
That the GOP did not issue such a statement demonstrates that its own values and priorities are deeply flawed.
Three final points:
1. This episode vividly illustrates what is so wrong about early voting, which Montana allows. People who vote early are eith admitting that they just rubber stamp their party’s candidates, which is irresponsible, or they are like baseball fans who leave the game in the 7th inning.
2. What kind of person would vote for Gianforte after last night’s display? The kind of person who argues that character doesn’t matter in elected officials, only their positions.
And idiots, of course.
3. Morning Joe on NBC featured host Joe Scarborough, while making a similar point to mine about the GOP’s duty to repudiate Gianforte, went on to say,
“The fish rots, again, from the head. At what point do Republicans start criticizing Donald Trump for attacking federal judges? At what point do Republicans start criticizing Donald Trump for using a Stalinist trick, calling the press enemies of the people?”
Cheap shots and non-sequiturs. If Trump body-slammed any federal judges, I missed it. The unfortunate precedent of the President of the United States criticizing judges was set in the previous administration. It is a bad one, but it also has nothing to do with suggesting that it is acceptable for GOP candidates to physically assault reporters. As for the news media, the current journalism establishment is threatening democracy by merging with one party to overthrow an election. Calling the news media out on that breach of the press’s duty in a democracy and ethics is not a “trick,” and it is also not a call for violence.