It seems unlikely that Greg Gianforte will manage to get any bills passed in Congress, but it seems like he’s inspired the introduction of one. Last week, California Democrat Eric Swalwell introduced a bill called the Journalist Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to assault reporters:
The Journalist Protection Act makes it a federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist affecting interstate or foreign commerce in the course of reporting or in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from newsgathering for a media organization. It represents a clear statement that assaults against people engaged in reporting is unacceptable, and helps ensure law enforcement is able to punish those who interfere with newsgathering.
Journalists are enthusiastic about the bill, which comes at a time when the press is under attack from political leaders and their representatives. The Society for Professional Journalists notes that the bill “will go a long way in protecting journalists who find themselves becoming targets because of the current climate. The rhetoric being spewed by some people in positions of power is dangerous to those covering the news — from small towns to large cities throughout our country and the world. It has to stop.”
The NewsGuild and Communication Workers have endorsed the measure, given that “Dozens of physical assaults on journalists doing their jobs were documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in 2017.”
And the threat against journalists was no more apparent than here in Montana when Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter, lied about it to the police and media, offered false contrition under oath, and lied about what happened again, all while refusing to take real responsibility for his actions.
And make no mistake: this was a brutal assault—including striking repeated blows and attempting to choke a reporter—simply because he wanted an answer to a question.
Gianforte still seems not to have learned his lesson. In a fundraising letter sent out on Monday, Gianforte is raising money by claiming that he was under attack by the “leftist media” during the special election:
“We were able to win a tough, close victory against the Democrats and the leftist media in the most expensive Congressional contest in Montana history,” reads the fundraising letter, signed by Gianforte.
That’s some brazen disregard for the truth, Greg.
Because of the timing of his attack, Greg Gianforte got away with staining the reputation of our state with his churlish, violent behavior, but he certainly needs to learn that Montanans value the First Amendment and know that journalists should feel empowered to do their jobs without the threat of violence. Let’s let Mr. Gianforte know that real contrition means accepting guilt and working to prevent the harm from being repeated in the future.
Since Mr. Gianforte is too afraid to meet with constituents, please call his office and urge him to support the Journalist Protection Act. If you prefer, fax him, perhaps along with an image of your favorite professional wrestler to make sure he pays attention.
Phone: (202) 225-3211
Fax: (202) 225-5687