That the president’s reference was veiled doesn’t make it any better. It arguably makes it worse. During one of his signature MAGA rallies in Billings, Montana, on Thursday night, Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte as a “true champion for Montana.”
“And I’ll tell you what, this man has fought — in more ways than one — for your state. He has fought for your state. Greg Gianforte, he is a fighter and a winner. He’s a winner. Great/ He loves your state.”
Anyone in on the joke understood that Trump was giving an approving nod to an incident during Gianforte’s campaign, when he attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs:
The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault after he is alleged to have slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting: “Get the hell out of here.”
Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire endorsed by Donald Trump, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.
“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “I think he whaled on me once or twice … He got on me and I think he hit me … This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
This created an unseemly situation after Gianforte nevertheless won the election and became both a freshman congressman and a convicted criminal. He pleaded guilty to assault and received a deferred six-month jail sentence. For Trump, this is a badge of honor and a reason Gianforte should be recommended for reelection: He’s a fighter; he’s fights reporters; he puts reporters in ambulances and sends them to the hospital; he’s a real Montana champion.
Erik Wemple justifiably points out that a normal president would be alarmed at recent murderous violence, and threats of murderous violence, against American journalists. This is not the case with Trump. He could not express less concern if he tried.
It’s fair to say that he’d like to see more violence against reporters. If you send a reporter to the hospital, you might just get your very own MAGA rally. Right in your congressional district.