Two Donald Trump backers who have a thing about bullying the media are joining forces at a GOP fundraiser in Montana.
Former Wisconsin sheriff David Clarke — who was temporarily bounced off Twitter last month after he threatened to “punch the media in the nose” and “make them taste their own blood” — will appear at the annual Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner for the Yellowstone County Republicans in Billings in March with Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.).
The prospect of the two of them together has a Montana newspaper threatening that if they try anything funny, they could be looking down the barrel of a rifle.
The slogan for the big dinner is: “Let’s have a ball and build a wall!” Clarke is described in a promotion for the event as a “General” in President Trump’s “external army.”
Tech billionaire Gianforte is best known for grabbing a Guardian reporter by the neck and hurling him to the ground, then straddling him and punching him in the face after the journalist asked him about health care last year. The assault — for which Gianforte paid a fine and was sentenced to community service and anger management classes — occurred the day before a congressional special election. Gianforte still ended up winning the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who became Trump’s interior secretary. Gianforte, up for re-election this year, is one of four convicted Republicans currently running for office.
News about Clarke joining Gianforte for the dinner, first reported by the Billings Gazette, made the paper a bit ballistic. Those “of us who question a Milwaukee sheriff in a bedazzled cowboy hat [are] left wondering: Is this the message the county’s Republicans really want to send to the rest of the city and state?” the Gazette asked in an editorial.
The editorial mentioned Clarke’s threats to the media — and added a warning. “We don’t know how things go in America’s Dairyland, but here in Montana, if you punch anyone in the face — lying liberal media or otherwise — you could be looking back at the business end of a gun barrel.”
It concluded: “We don’t understand how any of the flag-pin wearing, Constitution-loving Republicans could seriously support someone who advocates thumping on reporters while simultaneously pretending to love the First Amendment which calls for freedom of the press, not the bleeding of it.”
Records released about Gianforte’s assault last year revealed that Gianforte had lied to police, claiming that the Guardian reporter initiated the attack, despite witness accounts. He told the police, according to transcripts released after the election: “The liberal media is trying to make me a story.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story attributed an editorial in the Billings Gazette to the Montana Standard.