Does assault make a Republican congressional candidate a loser? | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Does assault make a Republican congressional candidate a loser?

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 7:58 AM

ASKING FOR ASSAULT: A phone or recorder in face set off a Montana congressional candidate. If he wins, he can expect more of same in Washington, as photos illustrate. - MATT VISER/TWITTER
  • Matt Viser/Twitter
  • ASKING FOR ASSAULT: A phone or recorder in face set off a Montana congressional candidate. If he wins, he can expect more of same in Washington, as photos illustrate.

The Republican candidate for Congress in a special election in Montana today was charged last night with assault for attacking a reporter who persisted in asking his opinion on the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the Obamacare repeal bill passed by the House.

Three large Montana newspapers that had endorsed Republican Greg Gianforte have withdrawn endorsements because of the attack. As the Billings newspaper noted, it's not the first time he's displayed an anger management problem or anger toward news media specifically.

Gianforte assaulted Ben Jacobs of The Guardian when he tried twice to get an answer from the candidate as he was preparing for an interview with a TV news crew. The presence of the TV crew, from Fox News, was vital. The account of the Fox reporter who witnessed the event told in graphic terms how Gianforte assaulted Jacobs for the apparent affront of asking questions.

Faith, Keith and I arrived early to set up for the interview in a room adjacent to another room where a volunteer BBQ was to take place. As the time for the interview neared, Gianforte came into the room. We exchanged pleasantries and made small talk about restaurants and Bozeman.

During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte's face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, "I'm sick and tired of this!"

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.
Jacobs got an audio recording.

The local sheriff who charged Gianforte was a campaign contributor to his race against Democrat Rob Quist, a Bernie Sanders fan whose campaign gained strength through grassroots support and Gianforte's dodging of the health care issue, which apparently has growing resonance around the country. (U.S. Rep. French Hill, take note.)

Gianforte's response in the immediate aftermath, prior to arrest, was instructive as to his personality and the integrity of his staff. The statement said:

Jacobs "entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions."

Later, the statement added, "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."
Apart from an account of physical contact that varies with that of Jacobs and the Fox reporter, the statement is remarkable.

It is, by the campaign's account, "aggressive" to hold a recorder near a subject's face to get an answer to a question. Two questions amount to "badgering." Both actions apparently justify assault, particularly when the questions come from a "liberal."

I write all this because it's symbolic of the times. Donald Trump has described news media as enemies of the American people and campaigned against "political correctness." Coincidentally or not, we've had a bumper crop of stories of rudeness and physical violence — against minorities of all types and against news reporters. A reporter in West Virginia was arrested for trying to question Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. A reporter was pinned against a wall and prevented from questioning a Republican Federal Election commissioner. An NBC reporter required an escort from a Trump rally. My own contribution to the tenor of the times are at two regular callers — one who calls from a masked number regularly during the work day to offer obscene comments and boast of tossing Arkansas Times in the garbage and another who calls from a masked number, on weekends, to leave recorded messages, generally undecipherable and accompanied by a high-pitched giggly cackle.

The big question: What will Montana voters make of it? Despite the lightning-fast social media, you'd be surprised how long it sometimes takes for news to filter out. What's more concerning is whether beating up a reporter might be GOOD for a candidate. It's a one-person anecdote, but one reporter driving to the scene last night stopped at a convenience store, told a clerk of the event and got this response: "That's my kind of politician."

Trump got 60.6 percent of the vote in Arkansas. If he'd wrung my neck the night before the election with a Fox News reporter as a witness, would he have tallied any fewer votes? Or more?

UPDATE: AP, rounding up quotes, I think found the Trump brigade outlook in a nutshell through words of Republican U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter. Is it appropriate to assault a reporter?

Hunter: “Of course not. It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”

This is a popular view, despite a long court precedent against the notion of "fighting words."


Tags: , , , , ,


Favorite

Comments (34)

Showing 1-34 of 34

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-34 of 34

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Little Rock school activists announce events for 60th anniversary of Central High crisis

    The group is not affiliated with the official "Reflections of Progress" commemoration of the 60th anniversary. However, at least two of the Little Rock Nine may be joining the group for an event at 2:30 p.m. at the state Capitol in the Old Supreme Court Chamber.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Trump tariffs hit farmers hard

    Well, the trade war has begun and the early returns for farmers are not good — sharp reductions in the prices for soybeans and corn. You may have heard that Arkansas, which overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, has some agricultural interests, particularly in soybeans.
    • Jul 6, 2018
  • Arkansas legislature rejects bipartisan effort to study race relations

    On Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council soundly rejected a bipartisan effort by two senators to to create a temporary legislative subcommittee to study race relations in the state.
    • Sep 15, 2017

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Wednesday: Headlines and the open line

    • UFOs have been renamed? Who knew? Apparently the US Navy is getting numerous https://www.columbiatribune.com/zz/news/20……

    • on April 24, 2019
  • Re: Wednesday: Headlines and the open line

    • Another attack on Trump's star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. Trump's star on the Hollywood…

    • on April 24, 2019
  • Re: Wednesday: Headlines and the open line

    • A completely unsurprising news item. "'Students for Trump' founder charged with fraud, bilking would-be clients,…

    • on April 24, 2019
 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation