President Trump received plenty of criticism for celebrating a congressman's assault on a reporter, but Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is standing by him.
On Friday, Scalise, who survived a politically-motivated shooting in 2017, said "it's obvious" Trump was not "encouraging his supporters to engage in attacks" during his Thursday night rally. The president had heaped praise on Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who in 2017 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for body-slamming a journalist. Although Gianforte has since apologized, Trump seemed to approve, saying, "any guy that can do a body-slam ... he's my guy." He also gleefully pointed out that Gianforte's assault may have helped him win his election.
Now, Scalise says that Trump was "clearly ribbing" Gianforte for the incident, claiming that "not one [Trump supporter] harassed the numerous media reporters who were present." He also argued that it's "irresponsible" for the media to equate comments like Trump's with Democrats "regularly using threatening rhetoric to call on their supporters to harass Trump officials, supporters, and Republican members and candidates."
Scalise criticized former Attorney General Eric Holder for saying, "when [Republicans] go low, we kick them," calling this a "dangerous call to action." He has, however, also sometimes criticized violent rhetoric from Republicans, saying that a GOP gubernatorial candidate's threat to "stomp" on his opponent "with golf spikes" was "totally unacceptable."
The White House Correspondents' Association said that "all Americans should recoil" from Trump's comments about Gianforte's assault, but Scalise is completely certain that they were nothing more than "a joke at a rally." Brendan Morrow