On Thursday night, President Trump rallied in Montana for Republican candidates. At the rally, he congratulated a Montana congressman for body-slamming a reporter last year.
Trump told the audience to never wrestle Greg Gianforte.
“Any guy who can do a bodyslam, he’s my kinda guy,” he said.
Trump then mimicked throwing a reporter to the ground as the audience cheered.
Last year, Gianforte – now running in a tight race for Montana’s sole congressional seat – plead guilty to misdemeanor assault after body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
In a statement after the rally, that newspaper’s editor condemned the remarks.
“The President of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian,” Guardian U.S. Editor John Mulholland wrote. “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."
Montana’s Republican Senator, Steve Daines, also spoke at the rally. The Mountain West News Bureau asked him about the President’s comments. Here is that exchange:
Nate Hegyi: “I was hoping to get your response to the President congratulating Gianforte for body-slamming a reporter.”
Steve Daines: “This was an event that was historic, the third time a President has been here I think since Harry Truman.”
NH: “That wasn’t an answer to my question, sorry sir.”
Daines then excused himself and continued walking away.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Greg Gianforte said he regretted assaulting Jacobs back in 2017.
"Greg will tell you he regrets what happened, he's not perfect, he's taken personal responsibility, this has been widely covered, he's moved on, and that since Montanans elected him, he's put Montana first and been working with President Trump and Republicans in Congress on policies that have delivered results for Montana – a booming economy, safer communities, and a more secure America,” the spokesperson said.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.