(CNSNews.com) - During Thursday’s speech at a rally in Missoula, Mont., President Donald Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for body slamming a reporter last year.
His comments drew condemnation from the White House Correspondents Association.
“All Americans should recoil from the president's praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his Constitutionally protected job. 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,” WHCA President Olivier Knox said in a statement Friday.
“We should never shrug at the president cheerleading for a violent act targeting a free and independent news media,” Knox added.
Gianforte pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2017 for body slamming a reporter who approached the congressman at a meet and greet in his Bozeman, Montana, office to get his opinion on the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the American Health Care Act as he was getting ready for a TV interview.
The congressman “seemed to snap,” the reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, said at the time.
During Thursday’s rally, Trump brought up Gianforte’s assault, saying, “By the way, never wrestle him.” He later added that the incident probably led to Gianforte’s win in Montana.
“Any guy that can do a body slam – he’s my kind of guy,” Trump said.
The president said when he first heard about the assault, he thought it would hurt the congressman’s political chances.
“I said, ‘Oh, this is terrible. He’s going to lose.’ Then I said, ‘Wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him. And it did,” Trump said.