Trump's War on the Press Precipitously Escalates

[Content Note: Violence.]

In May of 2017, Greg Gianforte, then-candidate for Congress in the Montana special election to replace Ryan Zinke after he was plucked for Interior, attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs after Jacobs asked Gianforte about the recently-released CBO score of the Republican healthcare bill. Gianforte slammed Jacobs to the ground, smashing his glasses, and later lied about it until audio of the incident revealed the truth.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to assault; was sentenced to community service, a fine, and a compulsory anger-management course; and went on to win the special election. He is now a sitting member of Congress.

Last month, at a Make America Clap for Me Again rally in Montana, Donald Trump, who has been waging a war on the press since virtually the moment he announced his candidacy in July 2015, made an oblique reference to Gianforte's attack on Jacobs.

Then, last night, at yet another rally in Montana, Trump went all in, effusively praising Gianforte for his physical attack on Jacobs, calling the congressman "my guy."

Ed Pilkington at the Guardian reports:
Trump described in glowing terms the physical assault that occurred on 24 May 2017 when Ben Jacobs, the Guardian's political correspondent, was asking Gianforte a question about health care policy in the course of a special congressional election in Bozeman, Montana. The U.S. president incited cheers and chants from a crowd of about 8,000 supporters on Thursday night when he said: "Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand. Never."

As the cheers rang out across an aircraft hangar in Missoula, Trump went on to say: "Any guy that can do a body slam…he's my guy."

...Giving his first detailed account of the Gianforte attack on Jacobs, Trump went on to tell the Missoula crowd that he had learned of the incident while he was in Rome in a gathering of world leaders. He expressed his immediate dismay.

"We endorsed Greg very early. But I heard that he body-slammed a reporter. This was the day of the election or just before, and I thought 'Oh, this is terrible! He's going to lose the election.'"

Trump continued: "And then I said, 'Wait a minute! I know Montana pretty well; I think it might help him.' And it did."

The line prompted another massive cheer from the Montana crowd.

The U.S. president finished his account of the physical assault by saying of Gianforte: "He's a great guy. Tough cookie."
Openly praising an act of violence against a journalist is an absolute extraordinary — and disgusting — escalation from Trump.

(Although it should never be forgotten that Trump himself physically assaulted reporter Alexi McCammond on the campaign trail in September of 2016.)

And it is unfathomable that he would choose this moment, in which we still await evidence of what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to explicitly endorse violence against members of the press.

This is not the behavior of a democratic leader. It is the behavior of a rank authoritarian, who delights at cruelly exploiting his position to plunge this nation into ruin as quickly as he can.

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