On May 24, Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte in Bozeman, Montana, allegedly body-slammed The Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs, and on May 25, some republicans reportedly joked about the assault and expressed sympathy for Gianforte (video below).
Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas joked to MSNBC about the alleged assault: "We didn’t have a course on body slamming when I went to school. I missed that course. I’m sorry I missed it."
Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona tried to put some blame on the "left" for the alleged attack: "The left has precipitated this tense confrontational approach throughout the country in recent months. I reject any kind of thing where we use physical violence in a situation like that. It should not have happened."
Republican Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey called for journalists to be treated with respect, but added: "I, of course, hope that the Republican is successful today because I think that his views are the views of the people of Montana."
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MSNBC reports that Republican Rep. Peter King of New York also joked about the reported assault: "Hey, this is nothing. I'm from Long Island, this happens all the time."
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin condemned the incident during a press conference on May 25, notes Mediaite.com:
First, let me just say, physical altercations, there’s never a call for physical altercations. There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press, or just between human beings. So that is wrong and it should not have happened.
Should the gentleman apologize? Yeah, I think he should apologize. I know he has his own version, and I'm sure he's going to have more to say, but there’s no call for this, no matter what, under any circumstance.
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When a reporter asked Ryan about the possibility of Gianforte winning the special election, he replied: “If he wins, he has been chosen by the people of Montana who their congressman is going to be. I'm going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative, that’s not our choice."
Authorities charged Gianforte with a misdemeanor assault on May 24, but Montana residents were split over whether to vote for him, notes NPR.
A Montana teacher said: "He assaulted a reporter. Would you want to vote for that? Who would wanna vote for that?"
However, a restaurant industry worker, countered: "The body-slamming? Ah, yeah, it just seems a little too good to be true to me. I guess I'm just gonna say he's innocent until proven guilty."
One man, who is a lobbyist in Bozeman, added: "Sometimes I think a lot of reporters get aggressive, and after the heat of a long campaign people can lose tempers."
One woman characterized the the assault reports as being "a crock of baloney," and added that "it's possible it's not even true."
Three Fox News reporters, who were present during the alleged assault, said Gianforte "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground ... 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!'"