During a campaign stop in Missoula, Montana Thursday evening, President Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte, the state’s lone representative in the House, for assaulting a reporter on the eve of the May 2017 special election that put him into office. The Republican was charged with misdemeanor assault on Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian, who was pressing the wealthy tech entrepreneur about the Republicans’ health care bill. Gianforte was in a surprisingly close statewide race at the time with Democratic folk singer Rob Quist and lied in the immediate aftermath, saying Jacobs had been the aggressor. Recordings of the event and eye witness testimony, however, proved the contrary and Gianforte later pleaded guilty to the charge and issued an apology for conduct that he said was “unprofessional, unacceptable and unlawful.”
Unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful, however, is right in Donald Trump’s wheelhouse and during the rally, after being introduced by Gianforte, Trump launched into a jokey routine applauding the congressman as a “tough cookie,” as “there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” “By the way never wrestle him. Never,” Trump said to laughter from the crowd. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.”
Here’s the full transcript of Trump’s comments:
Trump: He’s so smart. You know, you’re on live television all over the place, and we have people that get up and speak for 20-25 minutes and these guys are going crazy, that’s not the deal. But Greg is smart. And by the way never wrestle him. Never. [Laughter] Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy. [Cheering] I shouldn’t say that—there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. So I was in Rome with a lot of the leaders from other countries talking about all sorts of things and I heard about it. And we endorsed Greg very early, but I heard he body slammed a reporter. [Cheering] [Applause] And he was way up, and I said this was like the day of the election, or just before, and I said oh, this is terrible he’s going to lose the election, then I said, wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him, and it did. [Applause] He’s a great guy. Tough cookie.
This is from the same president that is currently covering for a Saudi regime that likely murdered and dismembered a journalist.