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Thursday, May 25, 2017

RSN: Charles Pierce | The Ben Jacobs 'Body Slam' Was Not an Isolated Incident



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FOCUS: Charles Pierce | The Ben Jacobs 'Body Slam' Was Not an Isolated Incident
GOP congressional hopeful Greg Gianforte (left) assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs (right). (photo: Getty)
Charles Pierce, Esquire
Pierce writes: "Hey, Republicans. Pro Tip: if your new healthcare bill is so bad that congressional candidates play Frisbee with reporters rather than answer questions about it, maybe you ought to rethink this whole business."
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It was just the latest example of wingnut conservatism.
ey, Republicans. Pro Tip: if your new healthcare bill is so bad that congressional candidates play Frisbee with reporters rather than answer questions about it, maybe you ought to rethink this whole business.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Greg Gianforte is a thug who belongs in an orange jumpsuit and leg irons. He doesn't belong in the Congress any more than I belong in the cockpit of an F-16. This was true even before the events of Wednesday night, when Gianforte assaulted Ben Jacobs of The Guardian for the offense of asking him about the CBO score on that new healthcare catastrophe. (Full disclosure: I got to know Ben on the campaign last year. He's a gentle, funny man, and I like him a great deal.) If Montana voters have any sense at all, they'll refuse to send him there. If Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from the state of Wisconsin, has any guts, he'll refuse to seat Gianforte if the latter gets elected. Of course, if Paul Ryan had any guts, he wouldn't be Paul Ryan.
And yes, Ryan is within his rights to tell Gianforte, the thug, to pound sand. Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution reads, "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller number mayadjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide." So, if Ryan doesn't want his caucus to include a thug like Gianforte, he can make sure it doesn't.
And is there a Russian angle to this story? Of course there is. On April 25, Jacobs reported that Gianforte owned almost $250,000 in shares in a couple of index funds that are tied to the Russian economy. It doesn't seem like Gianforte is a full-scale kulak yet based on these investments, but it does suggest that his animus toward Jacobs might pre-date Wednesday evening.
Let's for a moment, though, take a look at the original statement put out by the Gianforte campaign regarding the incident, because rarely do you get so pure a specimen of wingnut think. It is an especially piquant example because it was contradicted before its release by the audio recording of the incident itself. Later, a particularly noble accounting by a local Fox TV crew made the Gianforte campaign look even more ridiculous. But the statement deserves to live forever:
Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. "Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.
I just adore that last part. I adore it even more than the fanciful notion that Ben Jacobs was using his iPhone of Doom to overpower poor Greg Gianforte. "Aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist." This is an interpretation of events from a flack who is fully confident that his intended audience is made up of dupes and fools who've been marinating in the conservative media for decades and, therefore, will believe any goddamn thing they're fed. Shane Scanlon, the flack in question, has a very bright future, I believe.
These attacks on individual reporters should be no surprise. In the wider political world, people like Shane Scanlon and Greg Gianforte operate secure in the knowledge of precisely who their audiences hate and why they hate them. They know that those audiences cheered when reporters covering the Ferguson protests got roughed up and busted by the cops, and when that guy got arrested in West Virginia for questioning HHS Secretary Tom Price, and when that reporter got put into a wall while asking questions at an FCC event, and, ultimately, when the 2016 Republican candidate for president spent a good portion of every campaign rally coming right up to the edge of setting a mob loose on the penned-up press at the back of the hall.
This must be a great comfort to Scanlon and Gianforte. They don't have to care about representing anyone they don't want to represent, or about the survival of democratic institutions, or even about the country in general. The Bubble has turned into the Octogon, and Greg Gianforte fancies himself its king.

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