(From Washington Examiner)
Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire, is running in a special election for Montana's seat in the U.S. House of Representative. During a press session yesterday, Gianforte apparently took exception to questions from The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs and slammed Jacobs to the ground. Jacobs was transported via ambulance to a nearby hospital, but his primary injury apparently was winding up with broken glasses. Journalists from multiple news outlets, including Fox News and BuzzFeed, witnessed the incident and confirmed Jacobs' account of what happened.
The election, with Gianforte running against Democrat Rob Quist, is today, so it won't take long to determine if an assault charge hurts a Republican's chances in Montana. Our guess is that it won't hurt Gianforte one bit, and he will wind up winning the seat left vacant when Ryan Zinke resigned to join Donald Trump’s Cabinet as secretary of the Interior Department.
Normally, I would be outraged at such brutality used against a journalist, or anyone, for that matter. But I've seen this kind of thuggery in an up close and personal way. It has been used in both Alabama and Missouri against my wife and me, and compared to our experiences, Jacobs got off lucky. The Montana incident has been portrayed as "unprecedented" or sparked by Donald Trump's attacks on the press. But neither of those characterizations is true, and I know from firsthand experience.
I was thrown three times to the concrete floor of my own garage, doused with pepper spray, and hauled to the Shelby County Jail in Alabama for a five-month stay. That was in October 2013, and it made me the first U.S. journalist since 2006 to be incarcerated -- and apparently the only one in U.S. history to be jailed because of an unlawful preliminary injunction in a defamation case. What was my crime? Reporting accurately about an extramarital affair involving a GOP political figure and a lobbyist.
More recently, in September 2015, a Missouri deputy body slammed my wife to the ground during an unlawful eviction and yanked so viciously on her limbs that he snapped the bone in her upper left arm, just above the elbow. The break was so severe that it required trauma surgery for repair; doctors determined that regular orthopedic surgery would not get the job done.
And get this: Carol was arrested on January 30, 2017, and charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer. You heard that correctly: The victim of an assault by cops now stands charged with assaulting a cop. We've received a number of documents related to discovery in the case, and the falsehoods told by Missouri deputies will shock anyone who has a conscience. (A number of posts about those bogus documents will be coming soon.)
Perhaps most shocking is this: The Probable Cause Statement and Misdemeanor Information in the case show that, on their faces there were no grounds to arrest and incarcerate Carol, much less make her stand trial. So far, Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto has refused to consider Motions to Dismiss until Carol has a lawyer, and Carol wound up with a public defender (PD), whom we've never met, after the judge forced her to fill out a PD application. What was Carol's real "crime"? Being married to me, a journalist.
Republican brutality against a journalist is not as new as some experts might think. A professor at Carroll College in Montana yesterday called the Gianforte incident "unprecedented." From a report about Prof. Jeremy Johnson's take on the assault:
Johnson said he couldn’t think of any precedent for what happened Wednesday night a little over 24 hours before voting ends in the first U.S. House special election Montana has held since the 1960s. The 85-day campaign has been unlike any seen in the state, drawing more spending during a very compressed cycle than the November race for the seat.
Huffington Post portrayed the Gianforte incident as spillover from Donald Trump's attacks on the press. From the HuffPo piece, by Michael Calderone, titled "GOP Candidate’s Attack On Reporter Shows Peril Of Asking Questions In Trump’s America":
On Wednesday evening, Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs to the floor as Jacobs tried to ask his view on GOP health care legislation.
As Jacobs and a Fox News crew told it, it was a shocking assault on a reporter just one day before a special election to fill the state’s lone House seat.
But it was hardly an isolated occurrence. In the past three weeks, political reporters have described being arrested, pinned against a wall, slapped, and now body slammed ― all this in a nation where freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution.
Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nathaniel Herz told police earlier this month that Republican state Sen. David Wilson slapped him during an encounter over a recent story.
West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman was arrested on May 10 while trying to ask a question of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who later praised police for their handling of the situation.
And last week, CQ Roll Call reporter John M. Donnelly said he was pinned against a wall by security guards after trying to ask a Federal Communications Commission member a question in Washington.
The Johnson and Calderone takes are intriguing, but they are more than a little off target. Johnson claims the Montana incident is "unprecedented" -- but it isn't. I was assaulted for being a journalist more than three years ago, and Carol was beaten for being married to a journalist roughly 20 months ago -- and we both were injured much more severely than was The Guardian's Jacobs.
Calderone suggests the Montana incident is peculiar to the Trump era -- except that it isn't. Carol and I both were brutalized while Barack Obama was president -- and my case received international news coverage. But we never saw any sign that the Obama justice department would look into terrorism against journalists and their family members.
About the only difference between what happened last evening in Montana and our experiences is this: In Alabama and Missouri, corrupt GOP political figures get law enforcement to do their dirty work for them; in Montana, Gianforte took matters into his own hands.
Here is another major difference: Gianforte, who is not a "state actor," is facing a misdemeanor under Montana law. The cop/thugs in our cases committed federal crimes -- 18 U.S. Code 242, Deprivation of Rights Under Color Law -- and we soon will be filing criminal complaints with the U.S. attorneys in the appropriate federal districts.
Why was Gianforte so sensitive about questions from a Guardian reporter? Perhaps it's because the newspaper had reported previously on his investments in Russian index funds.
It's hard to see how Gianforte is going to get off on an assault charge, and he's likely to cough up a bundle in a civil case. When that happens, don't be surprised if GOP politicos take a page from the Alabama/Missouri playbook -- they will start getting cops to rough up journalists for them. Carol and I know exactly how that works.
Here is a video that includes audio of the body slamming incident in Montana: