MISSOULA – President Donald Trump praised Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte for assaulting a reporter during his campaign last May, saying “any guy who can do a body slam … he’s my guy” and made a gesture mimicking a body slam.
At a Montana rally Thursday night, Trump admitted, “I shouldn’t say this,” but continued and said, “there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
The comment comes at the same time as the administration responds to the disappearance and apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2 and Turkish media reports that an audio recording suggests Khashoggi was tortured and killed soon after entering the building before being dismembered.
Trump said Thursday “it certainly looks” like Khashoggi is dead. But, Trump said he is “waiting for the results” of investigations being conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, after which he pledged to make “a very strong statement.”
Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in June after he was accused of “body slamming” Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian. A judge sentenced him to a 180-day deferred sentence, 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and a $300 fine along with a $85 court fee.
Trump said he found out about Gianforte assaulting a reporter when he was traveling in Rome, and initially was concerned it would hurt the Republican in the election.
“Then I said, well wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him. And it did,” Trump said. The President’s comments were met with laughter and applause from the crowd in Montana.
Gianforte won the election the next day and apologized to Jacobs during his acceptance speech.
At the rally, Trump called Gianforte, “One of the most respected people in Congress,” and a “tough cookie.”
“By the way, never wrestle him,” he said.
Reporting by Ken Spencer for MTN News