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Gianforte's Montana Body Slam is Part of a Dangerous Trend

The war on journalists and the First Amendment is bad news for us all.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

_GOP Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte appears to have gone apeshit yesterday when he essentially body-slammed Ben Jacobs, reporter for _The Guardian. Gianforte is in a hotly contested special election against former songwriter Rob Quist to fill the seat of Trump administration appointee Ryan Zinke. In different times this might be seen as simply a candidate falling apart from the immense stress of running for public office. And it's not like there isn't history between elected officials and the wonderful world of pro-wrestling. Even President Trump has made forays into the ring in recent years.


But what happened yesterday in Montana follows a very dangerous trend of increased hostility towards journalists in the United States. This jeopardizes American democracy, and sends an awful signal around the world. It doesn't help that on numerous occasions the President of the United States has repeatedly lashed out at the press in a way that would be unheard of for someone in high office.

Our friends at the Committee to Protect Journalists, who work to tirelessly to protect the safety of journalists across the world, issued this statement earlier today.

May 25, 2017 -- The alleged assault of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by a candidate competing in today's special congressional election in Montana sends an unacceptable signal that physical assault is an appropriate response to unwanted questioning by a journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Jacobs tweeted yesterday evening that Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte "bodyslammed" him and broke his glasses. The alleged incident occurred in Gianforte's campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, as Jacobs attempted to ask a question about the Republican-sponsored health care plan, according to the Guardian, which published Jacobs' audio recording of the altercation. In the recording, Gianforte can be heard shouting, "I'm sick and tired of you guys."

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault late Wednesday night and is scheduled to appear in court on June 7, according to a post on the Gallatin County Sheriffs Office website. If convicted, Gianforte could face a $500 fine or up to six months in jail.

"Public figures in Montana and throughout the U.S. should condemn the violent assault of a reporter by a congressional candidate," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's program director and senior program coordinator for the Americas. "The role of reporters is even more important on the eve of elections. Gallatin County authorities should show that politicians will be held accountable for attacks against journalists who are merely trying to keep the public informed."

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