Obviously the big topic of discussion today is Republican Greg Gianforte’s alleged physical assault of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. As one would expect in the state of political tribal warfare that now exists, there are people defending or even applauding Gianforte attacking Jacobs. Some of that has manifested itself as typical meathead smack talk while some of it is more insidious, like writing deliberately misleading headlines.
Laura Ingraham’s site Lifezette published this piece earlier today:
Montana Assault Witness Changes Story, Says No Neck Grab
Reporter says firsthand account misstated key aspect of Gianforte incident
This isn’t really a change in story if one recognizes that the story here is that a candidate for Congress lacks the self control to answer (or ignore) a reporter’s questions without resorting to physical violence. Nor is the neck grab a particularly “key” aspect of the incident. Saying it is a key aspect of the incident sure seems like a transparent attempt to create the impression that the candidate did nothing wrong. Something was alleged then something was recanted, so this whole incident must be more fake news. (Anyone who has worked in online publishing knows that a sizable chunk of the audience never reads past the headline.)
The Lifezette piece cites Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna’s eyewitness account.
Among the small handful of eyewitnesses was Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna.
Acuna wrote a report published on Fox News that detailed what happened as Jacobs aggressively questioned Gianforte.
“At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” she wrote, “Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’”
Acuna repeated her initial version of events during an appearance on Fox News Wednesday evening.
“Gianforte grabbed [Jacobs] by the neck, slid him to the side, and body-slammed him, and then got on top of him and started punching,” she said.
On her radio show, Ingraham apparently grilled Acuna on insignificant details, leading Acuna to clarify the manner in which Gianforte grabbed Jacobs before slamming him to the ground, as if that makes a candidate attacking a reporter more acceptable.
Details from Acuna’s report quickly went viral online, but she said Thursday during an interview on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that she misstated the neck grab.
“One of you guys said last night that he put his hands around his neck,” Ingraham said. “Which, as somebody who’s done a lot of taekwondo and self-defense, to me that seemed, that might not be exactly right.”
“You know, and I’m the one who said that,” Acuna replied, “I saw both his hands go up, not around his neck in a strangling type of way, but more just on each side of his neck, just grabbed him and I guess it could’ve been on his clothes, I don’t know.”
Ingraham asked Acuna if that meant she was changing her story.
“Again, just to clarify, he didn’t grab him by the neck with both hands in the way that was initially described, that’s not quite accurate,” Ingraham asked at the end of the interview.
“No, so it wasn’t like he grabbed him around the neck, he had one hand on each side of his neck,” Acuna confirmed.
WELL THAT CHANGES…absolutely nothing. Acuna still saw Gianforte grab Jacobs and body slam him, which is unacceptable behavior for anyone, let alone someone running for Congress.
Ingraham’s Twitter comments about the incident are equally dismissive, veiled zingers aimed at the attack victim rather than the hot head Republican who lost control. Rush Limbaugh was making similar comments on the radio today, only condemning the assault sarcastically while describing Gianforte as “manly” for reacting to questions with violence.
That’s what high profile conservative media has become in the age of Trump. Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others like them have voluntarily become little more than the Republicans’ version of MoveOn.org. Deny, deflect, dismiss anything that reflects badly on their team and conversely promote anything that does the opposite (even if it’s a debunked crackpot conspiracy theory).
They have decided that their job is not to defend ideas anymore but to defend politicians, provided those politicians wear the right color jersey. Remember when they all said they cared about a candidate’s character and we fell for it? Good times.
Ask yourself how the coverage of this incident from the right would have been different had Gianforte been a Democrat. Conservatives can’t complain about media double standards when conservative media is just as guilty of them. You don’t defeat fake news with more fake news.