Once again, Congressman and candidate for governor Greg Gianforte is choosing to spend time with people who have expressed abhorrent and dangerous views. The Congressman, who has never had an open, publicly-announced town hall with constituents, somehow found the time Sunday
We’ve written extensively about Manzella over the years, so we’ll stick to a brief recap. Manzella, who believes vaccination is a conspiracy between the government and pharmaceutical companies and that people who work in schools in Montana are communists, is one of the most extremist members of an extremist Republican Party here in Montana. These are just a few highlights:
- In 2016, she endorsed the Bundy Gang’s takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with a post including a reference to the “three per cent” militia movement.
- She enthusiastically promoted an anti-government event in Plains that featured speakers opposed to public lands and who argued that “the people” should take up arms to resist the federal government.
- She spreads anti-Muslim hate speech with no regard for the truth.
- She went to the Legislature determined to combat the illusory threat of Sharia law and to prevent “no-go zones” controlled by Muslims in Montana. Really.
My issue here isn’t really with Manzella. For the most part, she’s a crackpot with little influence even inside her own party. But it is troubling that in an era when politicians carefully consider their images and who those they choose to associate with, Gianforte is seemingly unconcerned about attending a Manzella event.
One would hope that someone who wants to be governor of all Montanans would, at the least, not schedule an event with someone who believes teachers are communists or that armed insurrection is a legitimate response to federal officers enforcing the law, but Gianforte seems awfully comfortable being seen with some people with truly awful views.
Of course, this isn’t Gianforte’s first rodeo with anti-government supporters. As I reported back in 2017, Gianforte has repeatedly donated to and supported fringe anti-government supporters and white supremacists before and throughout his political career.
Ask yourself this question if you are someone from Helena or Missoula or Butte or Great Falls or countless other Montana cities or towns where Gianforte refuses to hold public events: why does Greg Gianforte refuse to meet with us when he always seems to have the time for people like Manzella?
It’s a story we’ve told over and over here: Montana Republicans are deeply, troublingly, and repeatedly linked to groups and individuals who espouse violent actions against the government and white supremacist ambitions. They attend their church services, they donate to their campaigns, they “like” them on Facebook, and they attend their events. For the most part, the mainstream press has ignored these connections for reasons I can’t entirely understand.
Theresa Manzella is absolutely entitled to her dangerous, ill-informed, reactionary worldview, but what does it say about Greg Gianforte and the state of Montana politics that a candidate for governor isn’t running from her and her events as fast as he can?