By Missoula Current
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said physical assaults are never acceptable, though the Republican leader shied away from saying Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was unfit for the job after he allegedly assaulted a reporter Wednesday afternoon.
In his weekly news conference in Washington, D.C., Ryan was asked about Montana’s special election and the incident that left Gianforte facing misdemeanor assault charges in Gallatin County.
Ryan told reporters that “physical altercations are never acceptable” and that Gianforte’s alleged attack on the Guardian reporter was wrong – as would be any physical altercation.
“There’s never a call for physical altercations,” the speaker said. “There’s no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or just between human beings. … That is wrong and should not have happened.”
Gianforte, he said, should apologize – even though the candidate has offered a different version of what happened at a campaign event in Bozeman Wednesday afternoon.
But Ryan also said Montanans must decide for themselves who they want to send to Congress – Gianforte or Democrat Rob Quist.
“If he (Gianforte) wins he’s been chosen by the people of Montana,” Ryan said. “I’ll let the people of Montana decide. … I do not think this is acceptable behavior, but the decision will be made by the people of Montana.”
Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, called the incident “outrageous.”
“Come on, come on,” Pelosi said Thursday. “Behave.”
Pelosi went on to blame the attack on President Donald Trump, relating it to the violence provoked at some of the president’s campaign rallies last year, as well as the president’s continued verbal attacks on the press. She called Gianforte a “Trump wanna-be.”
Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for the U.S. edition of the Guardian newspaper, said in a Twitter post and in a television interview that Gianforte “body slammed” him, breaking his eyeglasses, at a campaign event in Bozeman.
The event was corroborated by a Fox News crew, which said Gianforte grabbed the reporter by the neck, took him to the ground and punched him.
The incident occurred as Jacobs was trying to ask Gianforte about health care, according to an audio tape captured by Jacobs and played on cable television networks MSNBC and CNN.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault. The sheriff’s office plans another press conference some time today, as voters head to the polls to decide who will hold the state’s at-large seat in Congress.