Three of Montana’s largest newspapers have rescinded their endorsements of Republican Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte after he allegedly body slammed a reporter at what was to be his final campaign event before Thursday’s special election.
The sheriff of Gallatin County, Montana, released a statement Wednesday night announcing that Gianforte had been cited for misdemeanor assault as a result of his altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who had been questioning the GOP candidate on his position on legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The incident was enough for the editorial boards of The Billings Gazette, The Helena Independent Record and The Missoulian to withdraw their endorsements of Gianforte on the eve of Thursday’s election to replace Ryan Zinke, who vacated the seat to become President Donald Trump’s secretary of the interior.
While all three of the newspapers retracted their endorsements, none of them went so far as to endorse Gianforte’s opponent, Democrat Rob Quist.
In an editorial posted hours after the altercation, the Gazette wrote that “eyewitness accounts, law enforcement investigations and records are all shocking, disturbing and without precedent.” Aside from defending the right of a reporter to ask questions of a candidate for public office, the newspaper wrote, Gianforte’s behavior as described by police and those who witnessed it was “nothing short of assault.”
“We wouldn’t condone it if it happened on the street. We wouldn’t condone it if it happened in a home or even a late-night bar fight,” the Gazette’s editorial said. “And we couldn’t accept it from a man who is running to become Montana’s lone Congressional representative.”
The Independent Record, in its editorial, said Jacobs’s questions “were fair and come with the territory of running for Congress.” The reporter’s questions, the newspaper wrote, “surely did not justify the reaction” from Gianforte.
And The Missoulian, in its own course-reversal on Gianforte, wrote that the GOP candidate had not just lost the newspaper’s endorsement but also “should lose the confidence of all Montanans.”
“We will leave it to the legal system to determine his guilt or innocence,” the editorial board wrote. “But there is no doubt that Gianforte committed an act of terrible judgment that, if it doesn’t land him in jail, also shouldn’t land him in the U.S. House of Representatives.”