The White House Correspondents’ Association condemned President Donald Trump Friday after he lauded a lawmaker from Montana a day earlier for body slamming a Guardian reporter.
“All Americans should recoil from the president’s praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his Constitutionally protected job,” White House Correspondents’ Association president Olivier Knox said in a statement. “This amounts to the celebration of a crime by someone sworn to uphold our laws and an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has solemnly pledged to defend it. We should never shrug at the president cheerleading for a violent act targeting a free and independent news media.”
Speaking Thursday at a rally in Missoula, Montana, Trump praised GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte for an incident in 2017 in which an audio recording revealed that the then-candidate apparently body-slammed journalist Ben Jacobs. Trump said that “knowing Montana,” the assault would help Gianforte in the polls, even though it drew widespread condemnation across the country at the time.
Guardian US editor John Mulholland also issued a statement condemning Trump’s comments Friday night, urging the president to apologize.
Trump has often targeted the media, dubbing it the “enemy of the people,” and he refused to attend this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Gianforte’s staff initially blamed Jacobs for the incident, but the lawmaker eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges. Gianforte also promised to make a $50,000 donation to free press advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists.