Amid catastrophic flooding in the Yellowstone region this week, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) stayed dry in the Italian countryside – but you wouldn’t know it if you only listened to Gianforte and his office.
Observers noticed Gianforte’s absence as rescue teams and first responders dealt with the flooding throughout the week.
Gianforte’s office announced on Tuesday that the governor had declared a statewide disaster in response to the record flooding of Yellowstone River, which has been historic in its devastation as water destroys miles of roads, bridges, power lines, homes and even knocks out entire communities.
But the office didn’t mention that the order was actually signed by Montana Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras (R), who was identified as “Acting Governor” in the document. The Montana Free Press noted that it wasn’t known that Juras was the one who signed the order until copies of it were released later on Tuesday.
And it wasn’t until after the public found out that Juras had signed the order that Gianforte’s office disclosed that the governor had been out of the country. The spokesperson did not offer additional information on Wednesday aside from stating that Gianforte would be “returning early and as quickly as possible.”
On Wednesday, Gianforte’s office also announced that the state had submitted a major disaster declaration and aid request to President Joe Biden, and it turned out that Juras was the one who signed that too. Unlike the Tuesday announcement, the Wednesday statement included a copy of the document, which showed that Juras had signed it as “Acting Governor.” However, the statement itself did not mention the lieutenant governor.
On Thursday, Gianforte’s office told the press that the governor had left the country last week with his wife before the flooding began and would be returning that evening. The office — which had put out an announcement headlined “Gov. Gianforte Secures Major Disaster Declaration From Pres. Biden for Severe Flooding” –- still did not say where he’d gone or how long the trip was supposed to last, citing security concerns.
On Friday, Gianforte spokesperson Brooke Stroyke put out a fuller statement on the governor’s trip, saying that the office was only now providing more clarity because “security concerns” were “no longer an issue” with the governor back in the state.
“The governor departed early Saturday morning to Italy with his wife for a long-planned personal, private trip,” Stroyke said. “When severe flooding struck, the governor delegated his authority to respond to the disaster to Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras with whom he worked closely over the last four days to take swift, decisive action.”
The caginess surrounding Gianforte’s Italian vacation during a natural disaster in his state shares some parallels with Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) infamous Cancún getaway during Texas’ power outage that was caused by a massive snowstorm last year.
But to be fair, Gianforte left his state for the planned trip before the flooding began, whereas Cruz went to Mexico for a supposedly planned trip after the electrical disaster occurred, escaping the very freezing weather his constituents were suffering through.