Trump praises Republican congressman for body slamming journalist
At the rally, which took place in Montana, Trump said: “Any guy who can do a body slam, he’s my guy,” while mimicking the physical motion of a body slam.
“I shouldn’t say this. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Trump said.
Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in June 2017 for assaulting Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian. The congressman later apologized for his actions and was sentenced to a 180-day deferred sentence, 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and a US$300 fine along with an $85 court fee.
WATCH: Trump says he doesn’t regret bringing up assault on reporter by congressman
The assault happened while Gianforte was campaigning to become a Montana congressman; he won the election the day after the assault.
Trump commented at the rally that upon hearing of the assault, he thought it might hurt Gianforte’s chances.
“Then I said, well, wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him, and it did,” Trump said to applause from the 4,000 rally attendees.
Trump’s comments come as events are unfolding in the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2. Trump said on Thursday that it “certainly looks” as though Khashoggi is dead.
This is the first time as president that Trump has openly and directly praised a violent act against a journalist on American soil, although he commonly attacks what he calls the “fake news” media, such as CNN and NBC.
In a statement, Guardian US editor John Mulholland said:
“The president of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian. To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the first amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.
“In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats. We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them.”
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