This story is over 5 years old.


Republicans Really Don’t Want Reporters to Ask About Trumpcare

One journalist was body-slammed and another was arrested for asking about the healthcare bill.
Tom Price and Greg Gianforte/Getty Images

Last night, Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly body-slammed a Guardian reporter after he asked Gianforte for a comment on the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This is the second time in a little over two weeks that a reporter was forcefully blocked from asking about Trumpcare.

On May 9, reporter Dan Heyman was arrested after he tried to ask Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the American Health Care Act. Police said Heyman was "aggressively breaching the secret service agents" and "causing a disturbance by yelling questions" at Price; he was charged with "willful disruption of government processes."


But back to yesterday: The Guardian's Ben Jacobs asked Gianforte about the CBO score at his campaign headquarters and was told to speak with someone else on the campaign. (By the way, the CBO score was not pretty: The analysis found that the latest version of the AHCA would result in 23 million fewer people having insurance than if Obamacare stayed in place.) According to audio of the incident released by The Guardian, Jacobs persisted, and you can hear a struggle. Gianforte says, "I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here."

A Fox News reporter who was in the room corroborated Jacobs' account, and said that Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands, threw him to the ground, and punched him. Jacobs' glasses were broken in the incident. Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault and will have to appear in court before June 7. Gianforte's spokesperson said in a statement: "It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ." The special election for the Montana House seat vacated by secretary of the interior Ryan Zinke is today; Gianforte's campaign has been supported by Vice President Mike Pence and robocalls from President Trump.

Based on the audio, it doesn't sound like Jacobs was being aggressive. Witnesses to Heyman's arrest also denied aggressive behavior; he was just trying to ask a question. Both reporters were asking about the extremely unpopular AHCA, which is arguably more of a liability for Republicans than any of Trump's scandals.

Trump's approval rating is in the high 30s, while approval for the AHCA is in the mid 20s. Healthcare is an issue that could cost Trump—and Republicans overall—votes among its working-class base. The AHCA, as passed by the House, would increase premiums for low-income people and weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, all while giving a massive tax cut to the wealthy.

This bill is a far cry from Trump's populist message and Republicans are having a hell of a time responding to reporters, and their own constituents. They're scared, and they should be. But trying to stifle the press isn't going to help their cause.

Read This Next: Under Trumpcare, 51 Million Americans Would Be Uninsured by 2026