When Montana Republican Greg Gianforte body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of his special election in 2017, President Trump didn’t have much to say about it one way or the other. After Gianforte won despite being charged with misdemeanor assault, Trump praised his victory as a “great win for Montana.”
At a Thursday night rally in Missoula, the president got his chance to share his true thoughts on the sitting GOP congressman who physically attacked a member of the group Trump likes to call the “enemy of the people” and got away with it.
“Any guy who can do a body slam,” Trump said, mimicking the wrestling move, “he’s my kind of guy.” He clapped as the audience cheered.
As Trump explained, he was in Rome when he got the news that Gianforte had “body-slammed” a reporter. The president’s first thought, he said at the rally Thursday, was, “Oh, this is terrible, he’s going to lose the election.” But then he realized, “Wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him. And it did.”
On a recording of the incident, Gianforte could be heard yelling “Get the hell out of here!” to Jacobs, who was trying to ask him a question about the Affordable Care Act. “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacobs said after the candidate attacked him in response.
Later in Thursday’s rally, Trump once again evoked Gianforte’s assault when talking about his possible 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, who once threatened to take Trump “behind the gym.”
“He'd be down faster than Greg would take him down,” Trump boasted. “He'd be down so fast. Remember? Faster than Greg. I'd have to go very fast. I'd have to immediately connect.”
Trump and his political allies have spent this final stretch before the midterms accusing the Democrats of being unhinged and prone to violence. “You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob, and that’s what they’ve become,” the president said at a recent campaign event.