The Montana Republican now facing charges for allegedly assaulting a reporter took a page from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s playbook, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged Thursday.
She said Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault on a Guardian reporter Wednesday is “outrageous” and urged Montana voters to reject such behavior when they head to the polls Thursday.
“I viewed that as a mom and a grandmother. You know, we try to have some level of dignity as to how we treat people and who we are — the behavior we expect from our own families,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
“And to see this person who wants to be the one representative into the House of Representatives from Montana be sort of a wannabe Trump — you know, use language like that, treat people harshly like that — that’s his model. Donald Trump’s his model. And we’ve really got to say, ‘Come on, behave, behave.’
“That was outrageous.”
Trump, on the campaign trail last year, was frequently critical of the press, often attacking the media and energizing crowds during stump speeches. In March of last year, Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with battery for allegedly yanking the arm of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Shields — a case that was ultimately dropped. And since taking the White House, Trump has repeatedly accused the nation’s media outlets of peddling “fake news,” particularly when it pertains to stories about potential collusion between Russia and his campaign.
Trump’s approach has energized a conservative base that’s long accused the media of holding a liberal bias. But critics, including a long list of Republicans, have warned that the president’s constant attacks on the press will fuel public distrust in the very institution best suited to check the executive branch.
“It’s a tactic, to attack the press,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “And we really have to say this is about the Constitution of the United States, and behavior that creates alternative facts and fake news, and all these other mischaracterizations, do a disservice to our democracy.”
Montana law enforcers charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault Wednesday evening, just hours after an encounter with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. Jacobs says he approached the GOP candidate at his headquarters in Bozeman and asked a healthcare question when Gianforte snapped and slammed him to the floor.
Gianforte offers a very different account, saying Jacobs was overly aggressive with his microphone and the pair became entangled, crashing together to the floor. Eyewitness accounts and Jacobs’s audio recording appear to support Jacobs’s version of events.
The episode is the latest headache for Republicans on Capitol Hill, who are already struggling to defend Trump amid the ever-evolving Russia investigation. Under Trump and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcCabe, Rosenstein spar over Russia probe Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Rosenstein defends Mueller appointment, role on surveillance warrants MORE, the Republicans are pushing a tough law-and-order agenda that aims to rein in violent crime in the name of public safety. Sessions last week issued guidance to the nation’s law enforcers to prosecute crimes to the furthest degree.
Asked about Gianforte on Thursday, however, some Republican leaders were much more lenient.
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“I think he should apologize,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) told reporters.
Pelosi emphasized that the Republicans’ approach to Gianforte “is really up to them.”
“But I hope it would be up to the people of Montana to demand a higher standard of behavior … for the sake of our children,” she added.
“How do you explain that to children? You ask a question, I’m going to strangle you? I mean, really.”
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), former head of the Democratic Caucus, suggested Gianforte might need some anger-management courses.
“Maybe the guy needs to seek help,” Larson said. “I don’t know him, but that suggests some deep-seeded anger.”