Yesterday, Montana elected multimillionaire businessman Greg Gianforte to its one seat in the House of Representatives in a closely watched special election. Gianforte was hand-picked by the Republican party to run against Democrat Rob Quist, a folk-singer and musician, for the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who became President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior.
Assault charges had been filed against Gianforte earlier for throwing a reporter from The Guardian to the ground and strangling him after the reporter asked him about the new Congressional Budget Office scoring of the latest Republican health care bill, which, if passed, would mean 23 million people would ultimately lose health care coverage.
As he grabbed the reporter, Ben Jacobs, by the throat, Gianforte screamed that he was “sick and tired of you guys … get the hell out of here.”
Gianforte has often been compared with Trump. “Greg thinks he’s Donald Trump,”one observer in Monatana said. “He thinks he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.” Nancy Pelosi called him a wannabe Trump.
In true Trump style, Gianforte first made up some nonsense about how Jacobs had been aggressive with him, but that story was quickly debunked by witnesses. FoxNews, remarkably, was among the first news organizations to set the record straight. Their reporter, Alicia Acuna, was there and said,
To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.
Three of the largest newspapers in Montana had endorsed Gianforte, but retracted their endorsements after the incident. None endorsed Quist, however. Gianforte has a history of Trump-like interactions with the press. The Independent Record said in an editorial,
We are also sick and tired – of Gianforte’s incessant attacks on the free 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.
They also said,
We do not want this to be construed as an endorsement for any of Gianforte’s opponents, however. And we encourage all voters to review the information available, listen to their conscience, and vote for the best candidate for Montana at the polls today.
This is what passes, in Republican circles, for “taking the high road”. Paul Ryan, always a leader on Republican expeditions up the high road, also suggested Gianforte should apologize. Of course, a large percentage of the votes had already been cast before the assault took place, and Ryan was well aware that the House seat in question would remain under his control.
So courageous, Paul! And we just love that serious expression of moral authority and disdain for indecorous behavior that you cultivate just for occasions like this.
Some people, by which I mean yours truly, Stewie Generis, figured all this would just help Gianforte solidify his base and prove his bona fides as a warrior against America’s greatest enemy, the media, and also validate his ticket on the Trump-Train from Montana. If a Jew reporter from some liberal rag gets his hair a little mussed up, well, what can we say – ya gotta break some eggs if ya wanna make an omelette.
Anyway, with the win in hand, Gianforte was ready to move on from all this. At his victory rally, he said to a laughing crowd, “I shouldn’t have treated that reporter that way. I made a mistake.”
“Not in our minds,” someone shouted back.