Three of the biggest newspapers in Montana withdrew their endorsements of Republican millionaire Greg Gianforte this morning as voters across the state go to the polls.
Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault late last night after he allegedly grabbed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by the neck, slammed him to the ground, and punched him. Jacobs released a recording of the assault and Fox News reporters also witnessed it, corroborating his account.
During April, Jacobs had also publicized Gianforte’s financial ties to Russian businesses under US sanctions.
“This incident is not Montana. It’s not America,” wrote the Billings Gazette editorial board. “It’s not who we are, and attacking — literally — those with whom we disagree cannot be justified, tolerated or explained away. We must adopt zero tolerance for such behavior if freedom of expression means anything.”
We previously supported Gianforte because he said he was ready to listen, to compromise, to take the tough questions. 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.
“Greg Gianforte should not represent Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives,” says the editorial board of the Missoulian. “He showed Wednesday night that he lacks the experience, brains, and abilities to effectively represent Montana in any elected office.”
During the alleged assault, Gianforte can he heard shouting “I’m sick and tired of you guys” on the audio that Jacobs recorded. In rebuttal, the Helena Independent Record now says “We are also sick and tired — of Gianforte’s incessant attacks on the free press.”
In the past, he has encouraged his supporters to boycott certain newspapers, singled out a reporter in a room to point out that he was outnumbered, and even made a joke out of the notion of choking a news writer, and these are not things we can continue to brush off.
However, none of the three newspapers switched their endorsement to Democrat Rob Quist. Although the race is much tighter than had been expected, it remains to be seen whether the last-minute barrage of bad publicity actually hurts front-runner Gianforte in the voting booth.
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