Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte lost three newspaper endorsements over his altercation with a Guardian reporter who asked Gianforte about the controversial GOP health-care bill, and a Montana sheriff cited Gianforte with misdemeanor assault early Thursday morning. But the reaction from the candidate’s would-be Republican colleagues in Congress has been far more muted.
On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers have reacted to the news with a mixture of evasion and defensiveness. That was in stark contrast to the Montana newspapers that un-endorsed Gianforte, one of which, the Billings Gazette, called the incident “shocking, disturbing and without precedent.”
At a Thursday morning press conference, House Republican Leader Paul Ryan said a “physical altercation” with a reporter “should not have happened,” and that Gianforte should apologize. But Ryan would not say that Gianforte should withdraw from the race or be barred from Congress. “If he wins, he has been chosen by the people of Montana, who their congressman’s going to be. I’m going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative,” he said.
Republican Representative Steve Stivers, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement that based on what he knows of Gianforte, “this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes.” He added that the election “is bigger than any one person; it’s about the views of all Montanans.”