Eric Trump insisted Friday on Fox News that his father was simply having “fun” this week when he praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) as “my kind of guy” for assaulting a Guardian reporter last year.
“He wasn’t the guy that body-slammed anybody,” the younger Trump said of his dad. “He can have fun. By the way, this is exactly why my father won.”
Gianforte attacked The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs last year after Jacobs asked him a question about health care, body-slamming and punching the reporter and breaking his glasses. Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was fined and sentenced to community service and anger management classes. He also apologized for the attack.
President Donald Trump, however, praised Gianforte’s actions during a rally in Missoula on Thursday. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy,” Trump told the crowd, adding that he’d correctly believed the attack would help Gianforte win the special election to fill Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s seat.
Trump’s comments drew condemnation from The Guardian, other journalists, U.S. lawmakers, a spokesman for Britain’s prime minister and people on Twitter. The president was already facing criticism for failing to speak out against the Saudis for their role in Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi government now says that Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in Istanbul early this month during a physical altercation.
Eric Trump told Fox News his dad became president because of the way he talks. “So many people were so sick and tired of the little caged, the perfect, the perfectly scripted politician who memorized their little sound bite ... they weren’t any fun, and they had no charisma, they had no personality,” he said.
The White House Correspondents’ Association issued a statement Friday condemning the president’s praise for Gianforte’s assault on Jacobs, saying: “All Americans should recoil from the president’s praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his Constitutionally protected job.”
The president’s statement risks encouraging more assaults on reporters, The Guardian said.
When asked about Trump’s remark on Friday, a spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May responded: “Any violence or intimidation against a journalist is completely unacceptable.”