Three major Montana newspapers rescinded their endorsements of Greg Gianforte after the Republican candidate was cited with assault.
Gianforte allegedly assaulted Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs Wednesday night, one day before the special election to fill Montana’s House seat. The GOP candidate was not detained at the scene but was charged with misdemeanor assault.
“We’re at a loss for words,” wrote the Gazette editorial board. “And as people who wrangle words on a minute-by-minute basis, that doesn’t happen often.”
“We previously supported Gianforte because he said he was ready to listen, to compromise, to take the tough questions,” continued the rescindment. “Everything he said was obliterated by his surprising actions that were recorded and witnessed Wednesday. We simply cannot trust him. Because trust — not agreement — is essential in the role of representative, we cannot stand by him.”
“While we have always had serious concerns about Gianforte, which were noted in our endorsement of him, we are formally withdrawing that endorsement in light of Wednesday’s developments,” wrote the Independent Record. “We take our endorsements seriously and retracting an endorsement even more seriously, but we cannot in good faith continue to support this candidate.”
The Missoulian echoed the other papers:
“The Republican candidate for Congress not only lost the endorsement of this newspaper Wednesday night when, according to witnesses, he put his hands around the throat of a reporter asking him about his health care stance, threw him to the ground and punched him — he should lose the confidence of all Montanans.”
“We hope our fellow Montanans who haven’t already cast their ballots will say loud and clear at the polls Thursday that Greg Gianforte is not the man we want representing us in Washington,” continued the Missoulian. “He does not represent Montana values and he should not represent us in Congress.”
The Missoulian had published an editorial last month entitled “Gianforte, we’re not the enemy,” addressing the candidate’s handling of the press.
Gianforte had touted the endorsements and thanked the papers in a tweet Wednesday, saying it was “an incredible honor to be endorsed by three of [Montana’s] biggest newspapers.”:
— Greg Gianforte (@GregForMontana) May 24, 2017
There are two wrinkles to Montana’s special election that make predicting the results particularly difficult. Sixty percent of registered voters have already made their choice via absentee voting. And there’s same-day voter registration, allowing residents who were not previously on the rolls to register and vote Thursday.
According to Fox News staffers who witnessed the incident, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs around the neck and threw him to the ground before punching him. The Fox report contradicted the official statement from the Gianforte campaign, which said that Jacobs had been aggressive toward the candidate.
“To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies,” Fox News’ Alicia Acuna wrote in her account of the attack.
The front page of the Montana papers Thursday led with the Gianforte assault citation and the new CBO score on the Republican health care bill. Jacobs asked Gianforte about the new CBO report just before the alleged assault occurred.
Every Montana paper leads with Gianforte’s body-slam and the 23 million uninsured by AHCA. pic.twitter.com/V2KLxgHhSr
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 25, 2017
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