Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana's at-large House seat, was charged with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday night after he body-slammed a reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, for asking him questions about the GOP health-care bill, according to accounts by Jacobs and three witnesses from Fox News. Late Wednesday and early Thursday, three Montana newspapers — the Missoulian, the Helena Independent Record, and the Billings Gazette — rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte, in no uncertain terms. The election is Thursday.
Gianforte "not only lost the endorsement of this newspaper Wednesday night," the Missoulian editorial board wrote, "he should lose the confidence of all Montanans."
We will leave it to the legal system to determine his guilt or innocence. But there is no doubt that Gianforte committed an act of terrible judgment that, if it doesn't land him in jail, also shouldn't land him in the U.S. House of Representatives. ... He does not represent Montana values and he should not represent us in Congress. [Missoulian]
The Independent Review noted that "democracy cannot exist without a free press," saying "both concepts are under attack" by Gianforte, with Wednesday night just being the most serious and latest example. "We cannot in good faith continue to support this candidate," the editorial board said.
The Billings Gazette called Gianforte's reported actions "shocking, disturbing, and without precedent," and worthy of "rescinding our editorial endorsement." They called him untrustworthy and lacking sound judgment. "We believe that you cannot love America, love the Constitution, talk about the importance of a free press, and then pummel a reporter," the editorial board said, but to make this about press freedoms "would be to miss the point":
If what was heard on tape and described by eye-witnesses is accurate, the incident in Bozeman is nothing short of assault. We wouldn't condone it if it happened on the street. We wouldn't condone it if it happened in a home or even a late-night bar fight. And we couldn't accept it from a man who is running to become Montana's lone congressional representative. We will not stand by that kind of violence, period. [Billings Gazette]
None of the newspapers explicitly endorsed Gianforte's rival, Democrat Rob Quist, but they made it pretty clear who they did not want to see in Congress. You can read the full editorials at the Missoulian, Billings Gazette, and Independent Record, or hear the details in this Associated Press report. Peter Weber