Rep. Jim Himes: Montana Republican Should Not Be Seated If He’s Elected to Congress

By Susan Jones | May 25, 2017 | 9:49am EDT
Republican Greg Gianforte, a U.S. congressional candidate, faces misdemeanor assault charges after scuffling with a reporter who asked him a question about health care. (Screen grab from CNN)

( – It’s election day in Montana, and if the Republican candidate wins the race to succeed former Rep. Ryan Zinke (now the Interior Secretary) in Congress, he’ll be going to Washington with a legal hangover.

U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte shouldn’t “have the privilege of serving in this building,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday.

On election eve, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly “body slamming” a reporter who walked into a room where a Fox News team was preparing to interview Gianforte. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, held up a tape recorder and asked the candidate a question about health care. (There is an audio recording of the ensuing scuffle.)

 “Should he be seated, given what he did?” MSNBC’s Willie Geist asked Hines.

“Well, I don’t think so,” the congressman responded. 

“Our political environment has become so bare-knuckle, so ugly, and as you said, from the top – with the President of the United States actually encouraging violence in his rallies.

“I think this is a moment of clarity for the Republican Party. Are they the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt or are they the party that welcomes and maybe even celebrates people who call the media an enemy of the state – people who physically assault somebody who asks them a tough question.”

Geist asked Himes, “Would you call on the majority to not allow him to take office?

You know, I think that would be appropriate. In this building, and look, I’ll be the first to say, the media’s sometime annoying -- they hold your feet to the fire, they confront you with facts. But most Americans understand that the president is wrong, and that the media is actually one of those key mechanisms for accountability for elected officials.

And when a candidate physically assaults a member, look, set aside what that says about the media, what does that say about the character of that individual?

That is not somebody who has, I think, or should have, the privilege of serving in this building.

Jacobs tweeted after the incident, saying, “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Much of the discussion on “Morning Joe” involved the alleged assault and attempts to blame it on Donald Trump, given his criticism of the press.

"If you are a conservative, if you’re a Trump supporter, if you’re suggesting that the thuggish behavior from the President of the United States does not have an impact on people who are trying to emulate him, then you are clueless as to how politics works,” host Joe Scarborough said.

“But there’s a straight line to this sort of thuggish behavior, and if Trump wants to disprove me, wants to prove me wrong, then call this guy out, say he’s a punk, he should go to jail, and he should never be seated in Congress.”

Contributor Mark Halperin agreed that Trump’s “rhetoric and behavior towards freedom of the press and journalists has created an environment where this kind of thing not only is echoed, but has appeal for a lot of supporters of the conservative movement.”

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