It was the body-slam heard around the country, thanks to an audio recording by Guardian U.S. reporter (and former Daily Beast staffer) Ben Jacobs. On Wednesday, Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault after he allegedly attacked Jacobs for asking him to comment on the Congressional Budget Office’s determination that 23 million Americans will lose their health insurance under the GOP’s Obamacare replacement bill.
“Republicans have been through a tough few weeks, between the mounting Russia scandal and their massively unpopular health-care bill,” Seth Meyers said at the top of his “Closer Look” segment Thursday night. “And now, it seems some of them are trying a new tactic for dealing with all that scrutiny: body-slamming reporters.”
After recapping some of the more awkward moments from President Trump’s trip abroad and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s insistence that his party is “doing fine,” Meyers arrived at the most insane story of the week. “Republicans in Congress are not in chaos,” the host said. “I mean, it’s not like the GOP congressional candidates are out there physically assaulting people, right?”
“Wow, I guess the GOP really has become the party of Donald Trump,” Meyers said, cutting to a clip of the president executing a body-slam of his own during his WWE days. “That was a real thing that happened, and we still said, ‘Yeah, he should be president.’”
As for the reason Gianforte went after Jacobs, Meyers said, “Think about that. The GOP health-care plan is so bad, Republicans would rather body-slam reporters than answer a question about it. His response to the question was to give the reporter a pre-existing condition.”
Gianforte then managed to make things worse, Meyers said, by casting himself as the victim. But he did reserve praise for the Fox News reporters who were in the room at the time and published a report corroborating Jacobs’ story. “Well here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say,” he said. “Thank you, Fox News, for telling us the truth.”
Meyers went on to point out that Gianforte has “been taking his cues on treatment of the press from Donald Trump” for some time now, including comments that seemed to encourage his own supporters to attack members of the media at a recent rally.
“Gianforte has aligned himself closely with Trump and Trump has spent nearly two years as a candidate and then president creating a toxic culture of hostility toward the free press and an attitude of contempt for the First Amendment,” Meyers added.
During Meyers’ taping, results from the Montana special election had yet to come in—and Gianforte did win. “But this kind of behavior is far beyond the bounds of what should be considered acceptable by anyone in either political party,” he told his viewers. “And the toxic culture of hostility toward the free press that Trump has created needs to end, too.”