President Donald Trump praised Republican congressman Greg Gianforte for assaulting reporter Ben Jacobs, an attack that resulted in a guilty plea and a sentence that included community service and anger management classes.
At a campaign rally in Montana tonight, Trump first said “never wrestle him,” after calling Gianforte up on stage. He then added: “Any guy that can do a body slam — he’s my kind of guy.”
Trump later recalled his initial reaction to the attack, claiming that he thought it would help rather than hurt Gianforte’s prospects. “I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him. And it did.”
Gianforte attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for asking a question in May 2017, the day before Gianforte won a special election for Montana’s only U.S. House seat.
Gianforte initially told police that Jacobs instigated the attack but later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after eyewitness statements and audiotapes showed that he had been lying. Gianforte admitted Jacobs had done nothing wrong.
Fox News reporters who witnessed the attack later recalled: “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”
Gianforte is being challenged in November’s election by former state legislator Kathleen Williams.
Trump called Gianforte a “great guy,” a “tough cookie.”