This Cannot Be the New Normal: GOP Candidate “Body Slammed” & Punched a Reporter for Asking Question on Health Care

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The Republican party has come under attack lately for a number of issues, from their mission to strip millions of Americans of affordable health care, to their unwillingness to hold Donald Trump accountable for literally anything. To explain the criticism, Trump and other Republicans have declared the press their enemy, and have convinced a lot of regular people they’re being treated “unfairly” and that journalists’ right to ask questions and report the news is somehow a liberal agenda designed to corrupt America.

We saw on Trump’s campaign tour how he turned crowds against the press, promoting violence against journalists at rallies. So after that guy won, why would colleagues and supporters feel at all deterred from letting loose their own rage? This is now a world in which someone like Greg Gianforte, a candidate in today’s special election to fill a vacant congressional seat in Montana, responds to questions from a journalist with all-out violence.

That’s a reporter from the Guardian, who was attempting to ask Gianforte a question about the Affordable Care Act. Gianforte responded by physically attacking him. You can hear audio of the assault here, via Jacobs’ recorder.

Alicia Acuna, a Fox News reporter who was in the room at the time, described the harrowing incident, saying, “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 man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”

She made it clear, “at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.” Gianforte has since been charged with assault.

So far, reactions have been split into three loose categories:

1. Shock, outrage, condemnation, etc. Read: the correct response to any adult assaulting another, let alone a potential Congressman against a reporter.

2. Obsequious, passive deflection. i.e. The Paul Ryan Way. Montana has a large vote-by-mail constituency, so 250,000 votes (roughly 7/10s of the estimated final total) were already cast long before this incident. Some are calling on the GOP to take action if Gianforte is elected and refuse to seat him, to which Ryan basically said “nah.”

Similarly, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers chimed in with the odd statement, “From what I know of Greg Gianforte, this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes. We do all make mistakes. And we’re all then supposed to face the consequences of those mistakes. Also, I’m not sure how “out of character” this can be for Gianforte since he, you know, did it.

3. This kind of horribleness:

That gleeful bullying mentality isn’t just coming from politicians and pundits, either.

It’s hard to think that this brazen aggression isn’t a product of the Trump era. This is a man who still, after winning an election, doesn’t know how to view his opponents as anything other than enemies to keep defeating. It’s a man who puts himself first, his supporters (at a far) second, and everyone else–like the other half of the Americans he’s still supposed to lead and care about–he sees as garbage, or targets to be taken out and mocked as “losers.”

Gianforte has no political qualifications whatsoever. In 2016, he lost his state’s Governor’s race. Aside from that, he’s an incredibly wealthy former software company CEO. Like Trump, he doesn’t see his “businessman” approach as a drawback. Also like Trump, the effects of his total lack of experience is coming back to bite him. Politics and politicians are not perfect, by any means. But public office is a hard job, and one that requires things like patience and stamina. These men who see fit to jump right into leadership roles without developing those skills are suddenly finding, shockingly, that this job is hard. Men like Trump and Gianforte clearly weren’t prepared for the constant pressure the media and their constituents put on them.

It’s pretty incredible that Fox News of all entities has actually fallen into the first reaction category. I don’t want to be surprised by that fact. Given how influential they are, it would be amazing if it wasn’t a surprise that they sided with a reporter, rather than the GOP, but there’s not much precedent for that. Their MO is not to deliver news, it’s to manipulate the news, and deflect and lie, in whatever way necessary to support Trump and the Republican party. That they provided their detailed, disturbing account of the incident to support a member of the “liberal” press in opposition to a GOP politician is unusual.

Has this world of bullying and violence and diminishing respect for a free and open press gotten so out of hand that even Fox News, a driving force behind bringing us into this new terrifying era, thinks it’s gone too far?

(via NY Mag, image: mathiaswasik / Flickr)

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Author
Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.