Democracy cannot exist without a free press, and both concepts are under attack by Republican U.S. House Candidate Greg Gianforte.
A reporter for the Guardian newspaper called Bozeman police Wednesday night to report that Gianforte had assaulted him at a barbecue for campaign volunteers. The reporter said he was “body slammed,” and a Fox News reporter said she saw the candidate grab him by the neck, slam him to the ground and punch him.
We cannot condone that kind of violence.
The reporter went to the hospital, and Gianforte has been cited for misdemeanor assault. And while we may not know all of the specifics of the incident until the investigation has concluded, we know that we can no longer support Gianforte’s candidacy.
In an audio recording of the altercation, Gianforte can be heard screaming at the reporter, who had asked him questions about his stance on health care. He told the reporter he was “sick and tired of you guys” and to “get the hell out of here.”
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.
Though we aren’t clear on whether the reporter at Wednesday night's event was invited or not, his questions were fair and come with the territory of running for Congress. And the actions of the reporter surely did not justify the reaction.
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. We take our endorsements seriously and retracting an endorsement even more seriously, but we cannot in good faith continue to support this candidate.
We do not want this to be construed as an endorsement for any of Gianforte’s opponents, however. And we encourage all voters to review the information available, listen to their conscience, and vote for the best candidate for Montana at the polls today.