Last evening, Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC reported on the assault by a GOP candidate on a reporter from The Guardian. Greg Gianforte, candidate for US House seat from Montana, was reported to have “body slammed” reporter Ben Jacobs and, according to Fox News, punched him as well.
The NY Times reports that Greg Gianforte, Montana G.O.P. Candidate, Is Charged in Attack on Reporter, the charge now being misdemeanor assault. The state’s largest newspapers quickly retracted their endorsements of Gianforte. The Guardian reports that Newspapers ditch Republican charged with assaulting Guardian reporter. Snippets from The Guardian report follow.
A Republican candidate for the US Congress has lost the support of three newspapers in his state after he was charged with the assault of a Guardian reporter who tried to ask him about his party’s healthcare plan.
Greg Gianforte, who is running for Montana’s congressional seat in a special election to be held on Thursday, was charged with misdemeanour assault after Ben Jacobs made a complaint to police about the incident at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters on Wednesday.
A witness account of the incident given by a Fox News reporter claims that, after Jacobs asked Gianforte his question, the candidate “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground” before punching him.
Three of the state’s biggest papers, the Billings Gazette, the Missoulian and the Helena Independent Record announced they would be rescinding their endorsements of Gianforte after the incident.
In a leader comment, the Billings Gazette’s editorial board said it was “at a loss for words”.
It added: “While there are still questions left unanswered about GOP House hopeful Greg Gianforte’s altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, eyewitness accounts, law enforcement investigations and records are all shocking, disturbing and without precedent.
“That’s why the Billings Gazette editorial board is also doing something without precedent: we’re rescinding our editorial endorsement of Greg Gianforte.”
The Missoulian said it now believed “Gianforte should not represent Montana in the US House of Representatives”.
It reminded readers how the Republican candidate had dodged questions about whether he would support a repeal of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, saying he wanted to see a since-published impact assessment by the Congressional Budget Office.
Jacobs had entered the room to confront Gianforte with the numbers, which showed that thousands of people in Montana would lose healthcare coverage, it said.
“We will leave it to the legal system to determine [Gianforte’s] guilt or innocence,” the Missoulian said. “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 US House of Representatives.
“He showed Wednesday night that he lacks the experience, brains and abilities to effectively represent Montana in any elected office.”
The Helena Independent Record said it was “sick and tired” of Gianforte’s attacks on the press. “In the past, he has encouraged his supporters to boycott certain newspapers, singled out a reporter in a room to point out that he was outnumbered, and even made a joke out of the notion of choking a news writer, and these are not things we can continue to brush off,” the newspaper said.
“We take our endorsements seriously and retracting an endorsement even more seriously, but we cannot in good faith continue to support this candidate.”
The three newspapers featured reports of the assault on the front page of Thursday’s papers. The Missoulian also announced it had rescinded its endorsement of Gianforte on the front page.
Whether all this will make a difference to the election remains to be seen. The Times said that “Over half the estimated total ballots in the contest had been returned by Wednesday.”