Littwin: The body slammer wins and now the question is whether it’s all Trump’s fault

The body slammer wins in Montana, meaning, apparently, we’re either one step closer to the apocalypse or to political reporters adopting concussion protocols. Or maybe both.

The critical post-election question, of course, is what it all means (other than Democrats losing yet another hyped special election, this one featuring Rob Quist, their banjo-playing cowboy candidate), and whether there’s any reason not to think it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.

Having watched any number of Trump’s political rallies, having watched demonization of the press rise to levels that Spiro Agnew never dared to dream, having purchased my very own “Enemy of the People” T-shirt,  I’m good with blaming Trump for helping to create an atmosphere wherein body slamming a reporter is seen as political sport. But I’m a little unclear whether Trump is the source of the problem or simply the living embodiment of it.

I mean, Rush Limbaugh, who called the body-slammed reporter Ben Jacobs a “pajama boy reporter,” and Laura Ingraham, who wondered who stole Jacobs’s lunch money, were around long before Trump got to office. Trump didn’t create the anger dividing America. Like Roger Ailes, Trump just grabbed latched onto it and, in his case, rode it all the way to the White House. So the anger, the tribalism, the divide aren’t new. The Trumpian version, newly triumphant, is what’s new and what promises only to grow worse.

As South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, a Trump critic who has suddenly emerged from the wilderness as a Republican voice of reason, argues: “Respectfully, I’d submit that the president has unearthed some demons…There is a total weirdness out there. People feel like, if the president of the United States can say anything to anybody at any time, then I guess I can too. And that is a very dangerous phenomenon.”

In some ways, the story is less about Greg Gianforte’s body slam — in Colorado, we remember Doug Bruce kicking a photographer and Ken Salazar threatening to punch a reporter — than how the assault was received by those in his party, many of whom had nothing to say and some of whom actually rose in his defense. You had only to turn on CNN (but please, only in moderation) to see the debate over incivility devolve into, yes, a screaming match. Or head to your nearest Twitter feed. On mine, I caught reports of Rep. Duncan Hunter joking, “It was inappropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”

Mike Pence, who campaigned for Gianforte, hid out all day Thursday to avoid having to comment. Sporting his best hangdog face, Paul Ryan spoke regretfully of Gianforte’s behavior, but said he’d gladly support him anyway. And after Gianforte won, Ryan basically welcomed the creationist billionaire with anger issues to the House, saying he was sure he’d have much to contribute, right after his assault trial anyway.

In a great nugget from Italy, the latest stop on Trump’s world tour, we heard the president speak unprompted before a group of photographers of the “great win in Montana.” He did not elaborate. He just wandered away. But after the viral video of Trump in Brussels shoving the prime minister of Montenegro (yes, an actual NATO country) in a chin-jutting bid to move to the front of the photo-op pack, you’d expect him to appreciate the Montana political display of, as the sports announcers call it, physicality.

He must have been glad for the headlines anyway, temporarily distracting people from the Kushner news and from the chilly reception he had gotten for lecturing America’s longstanding allies on their defense spending. It was unfair, he said, to American taxpayers. Of course, the NATO spending goals were already under discussion, and Trump’s performance was pure theatre, for which the reviews, we have to say, weren’t great. The dark speech looked especially bad in light of the leak of Trump’s phone call with Philippine president/murderous thug Rodrigo Duterte. That’s the one in which Trump praised him for his “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

We know what happened with the thug from Montana. Fox News reporters who witnessed the assault confirmed Jacobs’s audio version. We know Gianforte body-slammed Jacobs for the grave mistake of asking him about the new CBO score. We know he broke Jacobs’s glasses and that Jacobs had to go to a hospital for X-rays. We know, too, that Gianforte released a statement blaming “the aggressive behavior of a liberal journalist” and said that Jacobs had grabbed his wrist (he hadn’t). He must have been thinking of the Trump-Macron grip (and grip and grip) and grin.

In other words, Gianforte body-slammed a reporter and then, though his spokesperson, lied about it. And through the lie, he apparently raised $100,000 from energized supporters who supported Gianforte’s take on what some were calling Montana justice.

In his victory speech late Thursday night, Gianforte apologized to the crowd, sort of. He said owning up to your mistakes was the Montana way, sort of. Maybe if he said he’d donate the $100,000 to an anger-management clinic, we might have taken the apology more seriously.

“Last night I made a mistake,” Gianforte told the crowd, “and I took an action that I can’t take back, and I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did, and for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I am sorry Mr. Ben Jacobs.”

The crowd cheered.  They cheered when he mentioned the fight. They cheered when he apologized. Some shouted, “We forgive you.” No one shouted, “Lock him up.”

There were a few problems, of course with the apology. It wasn’t “an action.” It was an assault in front of witnesses against a reporter who was doing nothing more than his job. And then there was the blame-shifting lie, which went unmentioned and unapologized for.

No one can be surprised by that. Unembarrassed lying is the new truthiness. And if you want to blame the new era of brazen political lies on Trump, it’s hard to see how anyone could put up a fight.

Image by Mike Licht, via Flickr: Creative Commons


  1. No, it’s not all the fault of Donnie Two Scoops. This is just the result of the last 40 years of republicans bad mouthing everything that isn’t THEM. They have been actively ginning up hatred for half of the country’s citizens ever since Nixon left office in disgrace.

    Rump has definitely kicked it up several notches, and the right in this country is completely unhinged, thinking they can pull whatever kind of immature, ILLEGAL nonsense they want and it’s fine. Their leader has definitely given them permission, though. It’s just too damn bad that the laws haven’t changed, it’s STILL illegal to grab someone and body slam him to the ground.

    The rich and the right wing declared war on the rest of us decades ago, after their boy got caught and was forced out of office. Ever since then, they have been republicans first, Americans 4th or 5th. They have nothing in mind anymore but robbing the rest of us blind and to hell with the fate of the COUNTRY. They don’t CARE anymore. It’s ALL about them and their money and power, now, not about the country’s welfare or future at all.

    I’m sure that there will be plenty of people calling me names for this opinion. PROVE ME WRONG. Don’t just sit there and call me names like I KNOW you will. PROVE ME WRONG. Facts and figures, please, and you can inform me about how right wing policies help ANYONE but the rich and big business. Because I have 40 years of proof of how you HURT and DAMAGE this country with your nonsense. But come on, give it your best shot.

    It’s time to retire the republican party for another generation. Their “budget” which is nothing more than CLEAR and OBVIOUS THEFT from the 99% for the benefit of the 1% is a PERFECT example of why this MUST be done. Donnie Two Scoops is just another, though a HUGE one. Time to start giving a damn about the COUNTRY for a change. And removing the republican party from ALL power is the best way to start.

  2. What you did not reference and what was reported by Democracy Now, was that at least 50% of the votes had been cast through mail-in ballots before this incident happened. Yes it is Montana and the Montana way of life and can’t be directly connected to the Trumpian influence. Thanks for great reporting.

  3. Clown car salutes America’s fallen heroes on this Memorial Day weekend..

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.” – Unknown

    “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt


    It has become increasingly clear that Mr. Littwin has lost not only his grip on reality but on any political acumen he may have had and replaced it with a monomaniacal obsession with President Trump. And any journalistic judgment Mr. Littwin may have had has left the station, replaced with parochial tunnel vision incapable of acknowledging any story not fitting his half-baked President Trump is a “danger to the country and to the world” narrative.

    On Monday a terrorist bomb set off by Salman Abedi killed 22 people and wounded 120 others at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England and not one single word about it in either Mr. Littwin’s column or the Colorado Independent. Nothing.

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    When an ISIS-inspired gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando Mr. Littwin wrote about it. When another ISIS-inspired attack killed 14 people in San Bernardino Mr. Littwin wrote about it. Likewise when terrorists struck in Chelsea, New York and in Nice, France on Bastille Day and in Paris Mr. Littwin wrote about them at length but not one word about the 22 innocent people killed by a terrorist bomb in Manchester just last Monday. Not….one…word.

    Mr. Littwin once wrote an entire column on an eye-roll but somehow has managed to ignore a terrorist bomb that caused the deaths of 22 innocent concert goers many of whom were teenagers whose parents were waiting for them outside the venue

    The reason for this inexcusable oversight is clear: the story does not fit his narrative. Acknowledging the Manchester bombing would be a tacit admission that terrorism presents a very real danger to the world and one that is far larger and far more deadly than the one Mr. Littwin wants readers to believe President Trump is.

    Mr. Littwin’s views have become grotesquely distorted driven more by emotion than intellect. Here are just three examples of his emotion-laden opinions all written before President Trump had been in office for two weeks and all dripping with despair and anxiety and exaggerated beyond recognition:

    – “It’s Day 12 ( of President Trump’s first term in office). The nation is in an uproar. The nation is in crisis. Every day that’s a Trump day is a bad day for America.”

    – “The Trump presidency is an embarrassment. This day. Every day.”

    – “What does matter, and what I’m arguing, is that Trump’s presidency is a danger to the country and to the world and that to pretend otherwise is to be a part of that danger.“

    Sound a little over the top, a little paranoid? Mr. Littwin is in deep, deep denial unable even to use the words “President Trump” or to admit that maybe, just maybe, terrorism presents a far greater “danger to the world”.

    After spending most of last year making some hilariously wrong election predictions ( e.g. “If the polls are right — and, while they’ve been wrong before, they’ve never been quite this wrong — the only remaining question in the presidential race is how badly (or, if you will, how bigly) Donald Trump will lose.” ) Mr. Littwin is trying to repair a reputation that is irreparable.

    While declining to discuss the terrorist bombing in Manchester he did find time and column space to devote to the results of a special Congressional election in Montana and covered it in his own slanted style.

    While complaining about “how the (alleged) assault was received by those in (Greg Gianforte’s) party” he overlooked a few

    Here from is what Speaker Ryan, said about the alleged assault:

    “There’s never a call for physical assault.”

    “I do not think this is acceptable behavior but the choice will be made by the people of Montana.”

    And this quote from was likewise overlooked (ignored?) by Mr. Littwin:

    “If the First Amendment means anything,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) wrote on Twitter, “it means you can’t body-slam a journalist.”

    And isn’t it ironic that while upset about Vice President Pence’s silence on an alleged assault where no lives were lost Mr. Littwin remained silent about a terrorist bombing where 22 lives were lost.

    Happy Memorial Day.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

    Memorial Day – May 29, 2017

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