Elections

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  • MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle is obsessed with a Republican talking point about Jon Ossoff

    At least 21 congressional representatives also live outside the districts they were elected to represent

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle has obsessed over a right-wing talking point about Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff's decision not to establish residence in the 6th district where he is running in a June 20 special election. However, as The Washington Post has noted, at least 21 congressional representatives live outside of the districts they represent and Ossoff grew up in the 6th district before moving a few miles away.

    For months, Republicans and right-wing media attacked Ossoff for living just outside of Georgia’s 6th congressional district, and during the race it has become a major talking point, with outside groups running ads against him. President Donald Trump also tweeted similar attacks on the days of the primary election in April and the special election in June:

    During an interview on CNN in April, Ossoff made it clear that he intends to move back to the 6th congressional district where he “grew up” once his fiancee finishes medical school. But Ruhle has repeatedly raised this Republican talking point during interviews with him and during discussions of the race.

    During a June 16 interview, Ruhle noted that this line of attack had been used by Ossoff’s Republican opponent and acknowledged his reason for living outside the district. But she still pressed him on it, asking: “Why don’t you just move, at this point? I mean, you want to get this job, to me it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, why wouldn’t you just move so you could represent the district that you’d be governing?”

    She brought up this GOP talking point again the morning of the election in a panel discussion, saying, “This is one I just can’t get over -- if you think about what people are going after him over -- the president tweeting about it this morning. This is resolvable. He just needs to get a house in the district.” And just minutes later, Ruhle again grilled Ossoff about his address, demanding to know why he just doesn’t move (emphasis added):

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Jon, I know you said it earlier, every vote counts. It is all about voter turnout. And I asked you the other day, but it's extraordinary, one of the main points that Karen Handel and even President Trump has pushed against you is something that's very easy to solve: where you live. And if you get elected you're going to be spending the majority of your time in Washington. And while people respect across the board your desire to support your fiancee, she is in medical school, she walks to work across the street at 4 a.m., you're going to be getting a job that has you on a plane living in another part of the country most days of the week. With every vote counting, with every point counting, why not move, sir?

    JON OSSOFF: Well, Steph, voters just aren't asking me this question. Voters are asking me what I'm going to do to improve our local economy, voters are asking me what I'm going to do to ensure they have access to health care. Voters are asking me what I'm going to do to bring greater accountability to Washington. Folks here in Georgia’s 6th district care about how their representation is going to impact their daily lives. And frankly, if this is the best argument my opponents have against me, I'm feeling pretty good about the outcome tonight. I grew up in this community, as you mentioned I live a couple of miles down the road to support my fiancee while she finishes medical school. I’m running to serve my hometown in Congress and I want to make them proud.

    RUHLE: But, Jon, since the special election where you were at 48.1, things have only moved to 48.8 with 50 million bucks under your belt. So voters care about a lot. If you look back on this and things are that tight, wouldn't you say to yourself, just get an apartment in the district, this race counts so much?

    OSSOFF: Well, if voters were raising that as a serious concern, Steph, maybe I would. But voters care about how policy and how representation is going to impact their daily lives. They know I grew up in this community, they know I grew up in the 6th district, they know why I'm a couple miles south of the line. It's just not a major issue in the race. I'm focused on delivering representation that will serve our local economy, that will serve the daily needs of the people I hope to represent. And I'm offering a fresh voice to bring that kind of service to the 6th district.

    Ruhle’s obsession with this GOP attack against Ossoff is undermined by data showing at least 21 members of the House of Representatives live outside of the districts they represent. The Washington Post published an analysis on June 20 that found “that at least 5 percent of [House members] live outside their districts” (emphasis added):

    There’s no legal reason he should have to live in the district he hopes to represent; the Constitution mandates only that members of the House live in the state they are going to represent. That said, it’s generally considered politically advantageous to actually be a resident of the area you hope to represent.

    If elected, Ossoff wouldn’t be the only member of Congress living in Georgia’s 5th District. There’s also Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who represents the district. But a review of vote registration records by The Washington Post suggests that Ossoff would be the third member of Congress to make his home in the 5th. According to voter data provided to The Post by the political data firm L2, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) is also registered to vote in the district, instead of the 13th District that he represents.

    In fact, The Post identified 20 members of Congress who are registered to vote outside of the districts they serve. In some cases, it’s clearly a function of redistricting. Four members of the House from southern Florida, for example, live outside of the districts they represent, but that’s likely because the Florida Supreme Court redrew the district boundaries at the end of 2015.

    In total, we identified the records for 395 members of Congress, matching names and birthdates to voter files.

    [...]

    The broader point, though, is a simple one: Should Ossoff win the run-off in the 6th District in June, he will hardly be the only member of Congress to live outside of his district.

  • Will right-wing media call out Georgia GOP leader for politicizing Scalise’s shooting?

    Conservatives have repeatedly slammed lawmakers “politicizing” tragedy by merely talking about gun violence in the wake of a shooting

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Right-wing media have been quick to criticize politicians and activists for “politicizing” mass shootings by talking about gun violence prevention in their wake. But after a GOP official in Georgia suggested that the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, VA, which critically injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and four others, “is going to win this election for us,” will conservatives care enough to call out the clear exploitation and politicization of the shooting?

    The Washington Post reported that ahead of the June 20 special election for a congressional seat in Georgia’s sixth district, Brad Carver, the chairman of the Republican party in a neighboring district, said, “I’ll tell you what: I think the shooting is going to win this election for us,” adding, “moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism.”

    In the past, Fox News and others in conservative media have derided officials for “politicizing” tragedies because they spoke out about gun violence prevention in the wake of shootings. After the June 12, 2016, shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, then-Fox News contributor Stacey Dash lambasted former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for “politicizing” the shooting in order to “advance an anti-gun agenda.” After an August 2015, shooting in Virginia, Sean Hannity called out Obama, saying he “tried to politicize” the shooting by talking about gun violence. And after an October 2015 mass shooting in Oregon, Fox’s Kevin Corke criticized Obama for “politicizing” gun violence, saying, “Politicizing gun violence usually is a terrible decision.”

    Carver isn’t advocating for a solution to gun violence, but rather he is celebrating the potential political advantage the shooting could bring. Despite Carver’s blunt politicization of the shooting, it seems unlikely that right-wing media will break from their campaign against Democrat Jon Ossoff to speak out against it.

  • New study finds that one in 10 news sources shared online before the UK election was “junk news”

    Researchers accessed available data from Twitter for the study; Facebook has repeatedly refused to share data with researchers

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A new Oxford University study found that around 11 percent of content shared on Twitter that was related to the upcoming June 8 U.K. election was “junk news.” The study was based on data from Twitter, which "provides free access to a sample of public tweets posted on the platform." By contrast, Facebook does not to share data with researchers trying to investigate fake news.

    Fake news has become recognized as an international problem following the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign; according to one analysis, it outperformed real news on Facebook toward the end of the 2016 campaign. Many of the websites that carry fake news have, along with the “alt-right," become part of an ecosystem that is able to mobilize to spread misinformation in election campaigns. Social media and online platforms such as Facebook and Google took some steps after the U.S. election in response to mounting public pressure, including working with fact-checking organizations to try to tamp down the problem for elections in France and Germany, although questions have been raised about the efficacy of those steps. 

    The Oxford study examined nearly 2.5 million tweets sent from the U.K. between May 27 and June 2. It found that during that time frame, “junk news accounts for over a third of other political news and information and accounts for 11.4% of the relevant content shared.” That amount showed that “UK users were not sharing as much junk news in their political conversations as” was shared during the 2016 U.S. election, “where the level of junk news shared was significantly higher.” But the study also found that it was a “higher percentage of junk news content than social media users who were actively discussing German politics and French politics during election periods” shared. From the June 5 study:

    Table 3 explains the distribution of content shared by UK Twitter users and reveals that the largest proportion of content being shared by Twitter users interested in UK politics comes from professional news organizations, which accounts for 53.6% of the relevant content shared. Relevant content is calculated after non-political content, spam, irrelevant social media, language and inaccessible content have been removed.

    Junk news accounts for over a third of other political news and information and accounts for 11.4% of the relevant content shared. Within the professional news content that was shared, the BBC was most popular, with 22.7% of professional news coming from this source. This was followed by The Guardian with 17.7% of links directing to the newspaper’s website. A high percentage of other political content that was shared comes from citizen-generated sources like personal blogs or civil society organizations. The number of links to such sources was higher than the number of links to junk news. Like in our earlier UK election study, Russian sources did not feature prominently in the sample, and no content was shared that could be attributed to WikiLeaks. This was in contrast to our project’s previous memos on the US and French elections.

    [...]

    Earlier in the election campaign, UK social media users shared a higher percentage of junk news content than social media users who were actively discussing German politics and French politics during election periods. In the second sampling period, the proportion of relevant content shared on UK social media identified as junk news was 11.4%, compared to 12.6% during the first UK sampling period, 12.5% in Germany and 5.1% and 7.6% respectively in the two election rounds in France. We also found that UK users were not sharing as much junk news in their political conversations as US users in the lead up to the 2016 elections, where the level of junk news shared was significantly higher. In the days leading up to the US election, we did a close study of junk news consumption among Michigan voters and found users were sharing as much junk news as professional news content at around 33% of total content each.

    Substantive differences between the qualities of political conversations are evident in other ways. In the US sample, 33.5% of relevant links being shared led to professional news content. In Germany this was 55.3%, and in France this was between 49.4% and 57% of relevant links across both election rounds. Similarly, in the current UK-based study we show that 53.6% of relevant links being shared led to professional news content. In the initial UK sampling period this was almost identical at 53.4%. Having compared the content shared by UK users across two sampling periods, we can show that the quality of information shared did not differ substantially over time. This is different to the other countries we had investigated, where the quality of information shared deteriorated as the election drew closer. We are also able to show that individuals discussing politics over social media in the European countries sampled tend to share more high quality information sources than US users.

    [...]

    Content about the Labour Party strongly dominated traffic on Twitter in the second sampling period, showing a substantial increase from the earlier in the campaign. Social media users in the UK shared five links to professional news and information for every one link to junk news.

    CNET, in a write-up of the study, noted that researchers “turned to Twitter, which allows access to 1 percent of its global daily data for free” but that Facebook “doesn't allow for its data to be viewed.” Multiple experts have called on social media organizations to share their data to help understand how fake news spreads about how it can be addressed. That includes one of the Oxford study’s authors, who told CNET that “a good starting part” to fight fake news “would be sharing more data” among academics, nonprofits and tech companies. Yet Facebook has refused to share its data on fake news with experts and analysts, and Facebook’s shareholders and board members, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, recently rejected a proposal to publish a report on how fake news impacts the social media giant.

  • Anti-Ossoff attack ad repackages right-wing media myths on Syrian refugees

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    An attack ad against Georgia Democratic House candidate Jon Ossoff repackaged right-wing media myths about Syrian refugees, falsely claiming that the United States does not have a sufficient screening process for refugees and is allowing ISIS to infiltrate the country through the refugee program. In reality, the United States’ screening process for refugees is one of the most robust in the world, and no Syrian refugee has ever been involved in a terror attack in the U.S.

    The May 31 attack ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) claimed that members of ISIS are “infiltrating America and using Syrians to do it.” It also cited right-wing website The Daily Caller to claim that the United States doesn’t have proper screening measures in place. This false information is some of the same rhetoric spewed by right-wing media when it comes to Syrian refugees.

    Right-wing media have consistently opposed U.S. entry for refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Often they claim that the refugees have “no paperwork” and therefore cannot be properly screened to ensure that they would not commit terrorist attacks in the country. 

    Experts agree that the U.S. refugee screening process is “one of the most robust” in the world, requiring multiple security checks, in-person interviews, approval from Department of Homeland Security, and a medical screening. On average, it takes two years for a Syrian refugee to make it through. When, in 2016, then-Gov. Mike Pence attempted to bar refugees from coming into Indiana, a federal judge blocked him. The decision was unanimously upheld by a panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that said it was “nightmare speculation” without any evidence on Pence’s part that terrorists will pose as refugees to enter the country. Judge Richard Posner, who was part of the panel, reaffirmed that refugees are “required to undergo multiple layers of screening by the federal government.”

    The claim that ISIS will infiltrate the U.S. by posing as Syrian refugees used in the attack ad against Ossoff has also been rated false by PolitiFact Georgia. PolitiFact ruled that “in the few examples since 2001 of an ‘infiltration’ leading to a terror attack, they have not involved ISIS terrorists from Syria.” It also noted that “far more common than ‘infiltration’ cases are examples of self-radicalization by people already in the United States, mostly people who were born and raised here.”

  • Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia probably would have been illegal, contrary to conservative claims

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    PolitiFact rated Fox anchor Gregg Jarrett’s claim that collusion with a foreign government in an election isn’t a crime “false,” citing three election law experts who named four statutes that could have been violated. Amid an FBI probe into whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, various conservative media figures have piled on to make similar claims that such actions -- if they occurred -- are not illegal.

    On May 10, Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera was among the first to say that collusion with the Russian government in an election wouldn’t be a crime. Fox host Sean Hannity said on his radio show on May 22, “Let’s say they did [collude], they said to Vladimir Putin, ‘Hey Vladimir, release everything you got.’ And Vladimir released it to Julian Assange. You know, is that a crime?” On May 30, Fox’s Jarrett asserted on air that “collusion is not a crime. … You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election. There is no such statute.” Jarrett made a similar argument in a FoxNews.com op-ed. And on May 31, conservative author Michael Reagan claimed on CNN, “Collusion is not breaking the law,” and repeatedly asked “what law” collusion breaks.

    In a June 1 fact check, PolitiFact, responding to Jarrett, wrote, “We ran Jarrett’s argument by three election law professors, and they all said that while the word ‘collusion’ might not appear in key statutes (they couldn’t say for sure that it was totally absent), working with the Russians could violate criminal laws”:

    Nathaniel Persily at Stanford University Law School said one relevant statute is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

    "A foreign national spending money to influence a federal election can be a crime," Persily said. "And if a U.S. citizen coordinates, conspires or assists in that spending, then it could be a crime."

    Persily pointed to a 2011 U.S. District Court ruling based on the 2002 law. The judges said that the law bans foreign nationals "from making expenditures to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a political candidate."

    Another election law specialist, John Coates at Harvard University Law School, said if Russians aimed to shape the outcome of the presidential election, that would meet the definition of an expenditure.

    "The related funds could also be viewed as an illegal contribution to any candidate who coordinates (colludes) with the foreign speaker," Coates said.

    To be sure, no one is saying that coordination took place. What’s in doubt is whether the word "collusion" is as pivotal as Jarrett makes it out to be.

    Coates said discussions between a campaign and a foreigner could violate the law against fraud.

    "Under that statute, it is a federal crime to conspire with anyone, including a foreign government, to ‘deprive another of the intangible right of honest services,’ " Coates said. "That would include fixing a fraudulent election, in my view, within the plain meaning of the statute."

    Josh Douglas at the University of Kentucky Law School offered two other possible relevant statutes.

    "Collusion in a federal election with a foreign entity could potentially fall under other crimes, such as against public corruption," Douglas said. "There's also a general anti-coercion federal election law."

  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.

  • Hannity repeatedly pushed stories after Fox backed away from or retracted them

    He also has flouted ethical and employment guidelines

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Volatile Fox News anchor and right-wing conspiracy theorist Sean Hannity has repeatedly pushed stories even after his network retracted or backed away from them and has on multiple occasions broken ethical and employment guidelines. Hannity has pushed polls that the network had previously said “do not meet our editorial standards,” hyped debunked Muslim “no-go zones” in France after the network had to apologize for reporting about them, engaged in political activity without Fox’s knowledge or approval, and has used his Fox platform to benefit a sponsor of his radio show.

  • Before Ben Jacobs, there was Jorge Ramos

    Assaults on reporters are too frequent in the Trump era; the Ramos example shows what can come next

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Journalists reacted in disbelief after reports surfaced that Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Montana’s House seat, allegedly “body-slammed” and punched Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs after he asked Gianforte a question. This incident is sadly just the latest in a string of increasingly hostile attacks on the press that President Donald Trump has encouraged both as candidate and president. An earlier confrontation Trump had with Univision and Fusion reporter Jorge Ramos serves as a warning about what can come next.

    Gianforte’s alleged assault on Jacobs has spurred a national outcry from journalists. Many are blaming Trump for encouraging “fear and anger and resentment” toward the press. And the altercation itself is not without precedent. Since Trump declared his candicacy and made his hostility to the press a central part of his persona, while covering political events (many Trump-related), members of the media have been reportedly choked, slammed to the groundpunched, shovedarrested, pinned, slapped, and dragged down.

    In August 2015, Jorge Ramos was another of these examples, when he was forcibly removed from a news conference after pressing candidate Trump on his proposals to build a physical wall across the southern border of the United States and to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. Trump told Ramos to “go back to Univision” and claimed that Ramos was removed because he “stood up and started screaming” and later commented, “He's obviously a very emotional person.” Ramos was later granted re-entry into the news conference and was able to ask multiple questions. At the end of their exchange, Trump reminded Ramos that he was suing Univision and that Ramos was part of the lawsuit.

    Later, Ramos was harassed by an unidentified man who told him, “Get out of my country.” In response to the confrontation, Ramos commented, “It’s the first time in my life anywhere in the world in which I’ve been escorted out of a press conference.”

    But what happened next was another first. As the campaign continued, Trump refused every single one of Ramos’ requests for an interview, despite his prominence in both English and Spanish-language news media -- though he did solicit a donation from Ramos and sent him a bumper sticker -- and blacklisted Univision along with nearly every other Spanish-language outlet. Ultimately, Trump did only two interviews with Spanish-language media throughout the 16 months of his presidential campaign.

    Just as right-wing media rushed to defend Gianforte after his assault of Jacobs, conservatives subsequently attacked Ramos, with the conservative Media Research Center even launching an (unsuccessful) pressure campaign for him to resign.

    During the campaign, Spanish-language outlets and those focused on Latin American affairs didn’t hesitate to compare Trump’s antagonism toward the press to that of Latin American dictators and warn of the dangers that would come with Trump’s war on the press. This incident is just the latest evidence that Trump’s antipathy to a free press is not only becoming normalized but is even spreading.

    The outrageous assault on Jacobs is a reminder that when journalists are dehumanized they become targets for political violence. What happened to Ramos is a reminder that once the actual reporters are dehumanized, aggressively blacklisting the media is an easy next step. 

  • Journalism advocates are "horrified" by GOP candidate’s assault on reporter

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    A Montana Republican congressional candidate’s alleged body-slamming assault on a reporter for The Guardian the day before today’s special election is drawing harsh criticism from journalism advocates and reporters, while also causing three local newspapers to pull their endorsements of the politician.

    Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate in the race for Montana’s lone House seat, was charged with assault Wednesday after allegedly attacking reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian.

    Audio of the incident indicates Jacobs was asking the candidate his view of the recent Congressional Budget Office report, released Wednesday, on the latest House Republican health care bill. The long-awaited report indicated that the plan would leave up to 14 million more people without health insurance next year and as many as 23 million uninsured by 2026.

    Apparently without provocation, Gianforte reportedly assaulted Jacobs so badly that he broke the reporter’s glasses.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is among several groups that condemned the incident.

    "Public figures in Montana and throughout the U.S. should condemn the violent assault of a reporter by a congressional candidate," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's program director and senior program coordinator for the Americas. "The role of reporters is even more important on the eve of elections. Gallatin County authorities should show that politicians will be held accountable for attacks against journalists who are merely trying to keep the public informed."

    Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, issued a statement that said, in part:

    While Mr. Gianforte’s campaign seemed to excuse his violent behavior by belittling Mr. Jacobs as a “liberal journalist,” his fellow reporters at Fox News who were on the scene have supported his account by stating that “at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”

    The journalists are united, and the country should be united, behind the belief that these kinds of attacks on reporters are an assault on the very core of democratic life and require the swiftest condemnation by public officials everywhere.

    Lynn Walsh, national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and the investigative executive producer at NBC 7 San Diego, called it an “attack against the rights this country was founded on.”

    “Ben was practicing his rights guaranteed in this country, freedom of the press,” she said in an interview. “To be physically harmed for doing this, the public should be outraged. Is this the direction we want to be going in? We condemn any sort of attacks, physical harm or arrests of journalists when they are doing their jobs. This was a journalist doing his job to get information to share with the public.”

    Kelly McBride, vice president at The Poynter Institute, said Jacobs was only doing his job.

    Jacobs “was politely trying to do his job,” McBride told Media Matters. “Getting a comment from this guy’s important, and this guy didn’t want to give a comment, and this is what we do as reporters -- nail public officials down on their beliefs in public policy.”

    Several of the journalism advocates also pointed to the latest incident as part of a trend of recent unacceptable violent actions against reporters, adding that President Donald Trump’s ongoing anti-press rhetoric may have been a cause.

    The CPJ statement also included this view:

    The attack on Jacobs comes less than a week after security forces at the Federal Communications Commission allegedly pinned CQ reporter John Donnelly against a wall while he tried to ask a question of the departing commissioners at the agency's headquarters in D.C., according to press reports. In a separate event, a West Virginia reporter was arrested this month as he tried to ask a question of Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price in the West Virginia state capitol.

    Bernie Lunzer, president of the News Guild-CWA, which represents Jacobs and other Guardian staffers through Local 3122, said the union is “horrified” at what appears to be a growing trend.

    “This is not an isolated incident,” Lunzer said in an interview Thursday. “We had the situation in West Virginia, the FCC incident. I think a climate has been created where people, rather than argue and debate facts, we’ve now got a situation where they target the messenger. … It is a climate where Trump has made it OK to attack reporters.”

    McBride agreed, adding that “it’s rare that it escalates to some sort of physical assault, but not surprising in the general level of disdain for reporters to do their job. Trump has definitely made it OK and popular.”

    Walsh echoed that view: “When you look at it and make an educated assumption, you tend to see these sorts of things, they do tend to come from the top down, follow what the top of their party might be doing. I think the assumption that because of the things President Trump said during the campaign and has continued to say as president I think can be contributing to some of this. We have to make sure this doesn’t become the new norm.”

    In a related move, three of Montana’s largest daily newspapers that had endorsed Gianforte pulled their support Thursday morning.

    Among them was the Billings Gazette, the state’s largest paper in terms of circulation. Its editorial board stated, in part:

    While there are still questions left unanswered about GOP House hopeful Greg Gianforte's altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, eyewitness accounts, law enforcement investigations and records are all shocking, disturbing and without precedent.

    That's why The Billings Gazette editorial board is also doing something without precedent: We're rescinding our editorial endorsement of Greg Gianforte.

    Although we're greatly troubled by this action against a member of the media who was just doing his job, to make this an issue of media intrusion or even a passionate defense of the role of a free press during an election would be to miss the point.

    If what was heard on tape and described by eye-witnesses is accurate, the incident in Bozeman is nothing short of assault. We wouldn't condone it if it happened on the street. We wouldn't condone it if it happened in a home or even a late-night bar fight. And we couldn't accept it from a man who is running to become Montana's lone Congressional representative.

    The other two papers included the Missoulian of Missoula and the Independent Record of Helena, the state capital.

    The Independent Record stated, in part:

    Democracy cannot exist without a free press, and both concepts are under attack by Republican U.S. House Candidate Greg Gianforte.

    A reporter for the Guardian newspaper called Bozeman police Wednesday night to report that Gianforte had assaulted him at a barbecue for campaign volunteers. The reporter said he was “body slammed,” and a Fox News reporter said she saw the candidate grab him by the neck, slam him to the ground and punch him.

    We cannot condone that kind of violence.

    The reporter went to the hospital, and Gianforte has been cited for misdemeanor assault. And while we may not know all of the specifics of the incident until the investigation has concluded, we know that we can no longer support Gianforte’s candidacy.

    The Missoulian’s withdrawal added:

    Greg Gianforte should not represent Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Republican candidate for Congress not only lost the endorsement of this newspaper Wednesday night when, according to witnesses, he put his hands around the throat of a reporter asking him about his health care stance, threw him to the ground and punched him — he should lose the confidence of all Montanans.

  • Conservative media use Gianforte assault to attack early voting

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are using Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault against a reporter to push for ending early voting, because voters who have already cast their ballots in today’s election would not be able to consider the assault charge. Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked early voting, even though it allows more people to participate, results in more accurate vote counts, and reduces barriers to voting, including for people of color. Experts also say most early voters are unlikely to change their votes at the last minute.

    After Gianforte, a Republican running for Montana’s lone seat in the House, was charged on May 24 with assaulting a reporter, conservative media figures used the incident to attack early voting. CNN’s Rick Santorum called the alleged assault “another good reason” to end early voting. MSNBC contributor Katie Packer Beeson tweeted that the incident is “another argument against early voting.” HotAir editor Jazz Shaw retweeted Packer Beeson, adding, “Only one of many examples.”

    Right-wing media have a history of attacking early voting, claiming “there’s no reason” for it and saying it “inevitably increases the potential for fraud.” Some have even argued that it violates the Constitution. These claims, however, have been thoroughly debunked.

    Early voting is extremely important. The Washington Post noted that allowing citizens to vote before the official election day  “addresses systemic barriers” minority voters face, and The New York Times reported that “cutbacks in early voting periods … disproportionately affect minorities.” In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled against early voting restrictions in Ohio, pointing out that decreasing early voting disproportionately hurts voters who are “women, older, and of lower income and education attainment.”

    Additionally, experts note that those who vote early tend to do so in the two weeks leading up to an election and are firmly decided on whom they are voting for, meaning last-minute events, however shocking, are unlikely to change their opinions. And while some may come to regret their decisions come Election Day, those numbers are nothing compared to the number of people who would be disenfranchised by eliminating early voting.

  • The GOP’s war on the press explodes into full view

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    First came the body slam, as Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte grabbed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by the neck and lifted him off the ground Wednesday afternoon at a Montana campaign event. Then came the punches as Jacobs lay sprawled on the floor.

    Here’s how Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna described the jaw-dropping assault. She and two of her colleagues were in the room when the Gianforte attack took place:

    At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. 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!"

    The candidate, who’s running in a special election today, has been charged for the assault.

    It’s all very shocking, but it's not surprising. It’s shocking that a grown man who wants to represent the voters of Montana in the halls and chambers of Congress decided to physically assault a reporter who was pressing the candidate with wonky questions about the Congressional Budget Office’s projections for the proposed GOP health care plan.

    “The eye-witness accounts and the recordings have stunned us,” wrote the Billings Gazette, Montana’s largest newspaper, which withdrew its endorsement of Gianforte last night. “We must adopt zero tolerance for such behavior if freedom of expression means anything.”

    But it’s not surprising.

    It’s not surprising because the Republican Party, led by President Donald Trump, has been widening its war on the press at a breathtaking pace over the last two years.

    Unequivocally targeting journalists as the “enemy of the people,” Trump has signaled to the party and to the larger conservative movement that it’s open season on the news media.

    “I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people’ -- and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none,” Trump announced during his media-bashing address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.  

    And during a visit to CIA headquarters, the new president bragged that he had “a running war with the media” and called reporters “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” This while his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, demanded the media "keep its mouth shut."

    After that, Trump reportedly urged then-FBI Director James Comey to jail reporters.

    And of course, on the campaign trail last year, Trump regularly called reporters "disgusting" and "horrible people.” His ardent followers soon picked up his cues and began raining down insults and death threats on journalists covering the Trump campaign.

    And don’t forget that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with simple battery of a reporter last year (the local prosecutor ultimately decided not to prosecute him), and that a Time photographer was slammed to the ground during a Trump rally.

    Cumulatively, that has helped create a hothouse environment where reporters have perpetual targets on their back.

    HuffPost’s Michael Calderone recently rounded up just the very latest disturbing attacks on the First Amendment:

    Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nathaniel Herz told police earlier this month that Republican state Sen. David Wilson slapped him during an encounter over a recent story.

    West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman was arrested on May 10 while trying to ask a question of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who later praised police for their handling of the situation.

    And last week, CQ Roll Call reporter John M. Donnelly said he was pinned against a wall by security guards after trying to ask a Federal Communications Commission member a question in Washington.

    Sadly, we can now add the Jacobs assault to the mounting war on the press, sponsored and promoted by today’s Republican Party.