The following is an editorial by PoliticusUSA managing editor Sarah Jones.
The Republican justification for assaulting Ben Jacobs included the dog whistle words, “liberal reporter” for a reason. The reason is that if the reporter was a liberal, it was okay. Not just okay, but justified.
Gianforte campaign statement. pic.twitter.com/GLwN8wKEUg
— Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) May 25, 2017
A Republican strategist said Wednesday night that this was the way to go– Gianforte can’t apologize, it’s best to blame the “liberal reporter “as it would help motivate the base to turn out:
Just talked to a GOP strategist who basically endorsed this statement as a political strategy. Can't apologize now. Rally base is only move https://t.co/HeqoFkhqwl
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) May 25, 2017
Gianforte’s statement doesn’t fit the recounting of the witnesses, the reporter, or the audio.
I noted early Thursday morning that this fact should be a bigger deal than it is. “It should be a bigger deal that Republicans, in this case Montana GOP/Greg Gianforte, use label “liberal” as an excuse to assault people.” This should trouble people. When a group of people are singled out and targeted for violence, it should raise alarm bells. It should be even more alarming that so many conservatives justified the, as described by one of the local Fox News reporters who witnessed it, brutal assault.
Some people get it. Republican strategist Rick Wilson has been trying to rescue his party from the “Trump trolls” to no avail. He called the assault of Ben Jacobs by GOP candidate Greg Gianforte “one of those moments where the cultural collapse of the GOP into the Trump Troll Party is captured.”
Here’s his thread in which he puts the shoe on the other foot in an attempt to introduce principle and empathy to the Trump followers (all is exactly as he wrote, with the exception of swear words):
1/ This Gianforte assault story is one of those moments where the cultural collapse of the GOP into the Trump Troll Party is captured
2/ First, if you’re defending someone assaulting a reporter because “duh lubrul media lies” allow me put the jackboot on the other foot.
3/ How would you feel if the parents of Seth Rich took out a tire iron and beat the living sh*t out of Sean Hannity for his repulsive lies?
4/ How would you feel if this rule got applied to Trumpbart “reporters” who are lying, tendentious, sh*tbirds of the highest order?
5/ Is it cool for me to beat that freakish, pasty recluse John Nolte’s head in because he literally *joked about my daughter being raped* ?
6/ Are you so past the rule of law, and lack so much confidence in your ideas that this is where you take political satisfaction?
7/ Because if this is where you are, you’re not a party; you’re a mob. If this is where you are, you’re not a conservative; you’re trash.
8/ the vast majority of people beating their chests and macho ball-walking on this issue have never been in a fight, never landed a punch
9/ But I guarantee you some of them, including the clickseratives, will defend this even obliquely
10/ the problem with political violence is twofold; first, it accelerates. 2nd, the set of acceptable targets widens.
11/ If you’re a Republican or conservative defending this, please stop identifying yourself as either
Wilson’s concern about the set of acceptable targets widening is exactly where I see this going. What next, are liberal reporters to “register” so they can be easily identified as people who have no rights?
If this violence is acceptable, and conservatives on my Twitter stream have been justifying it all morning, who next?
Just a small sampling of the incoming:
@PoliticusSarah But violence against Trump suppoorters is okay.
He deserved it.
— DEPLORABLE CHEF (@ChefmikeSwords) May 25, 2017
That's not an excuse, that's a damned good reason. https://t.co/S2Nhic2Drp
— Mr. ✘ (@GlomarResponder) May 25, 2017
Many of them excused this by taunting that it was okay to hit a Nazi, which bizarrely conflates conservatives with Nazis and leaves out condemning the violent assault on a reporter but apparently works for them because it allows them to avoid saying this isn’t okay.
And then we have the people who can’t resist bringing “second amendment rights” (hat wave to Donald Trump and his someone might shoot Hillary Clinton if she wins because second amendment rights):
CZ Good thing that MT candidate didn't interpret his 2nd Amendment rights the way that reporter interpreted his 1st Amendment rights.
— The Gormogons (@Gormogons) May 25, 2017
What is required here is for elected Republicans to speak up. This is a moment when the leader of the Republican Party, their President, would normally weigh in to gently guide the pack away from mob rule. But they elected Donald Trump, after he was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and multiple women came forward with stories of Trump harassing them and trying to ruin their careers when they rejected him.
This is the Republican Party, party of “law and order”, perp edition. They are on the side of the perpetrators, not the law. And their base is not only okay with that, according to their own strategists it’s good to lie to the base and tell them that the “liberal reporter” assaulted Gianforte because this will rally them. Do they really require such base motivation to get out to vote? Apparently.
There is a lack of moral leadership in the Republican Party that is deafening. Wilson continues to speak out, as do a handful of others, but none of them are elected.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.