By Jeff Mason
MISSOULA, Mont. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Thursday heaped praise on a U.S. congressman from Montana who body-slammed a reporter during a campaign for a special election in 2017.
Trump, who has called the media the enemy of the American people and regularly derides journalists as “fake news,” made his latest remarks during a campaign rally in Montana.
Representative Greg Gianforte, who made brief remarks at the rally with Trump, was ordered to perform community service as part of his sentence for attacking Ben Jacobs, a correspondent for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, on May 24, 2017, the day before a special election to fill Montana’s sole congressional seat.
“Any guy that can do a body-slam … is my guy,” Trump told supporters at the rally, adding that he was concerned at first that the incident would jeopardize Gianforte’s campaign.
“I said: ‘Oh, this is terrible, he’s going to lose the election.’ Then I said: ‘Well, wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him,’ and it did,” Trump said.
Gianforte, who won the election, pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter.
Trump is on a three-state tour in the western part of the United States advocating for Republican candidates who are running for election in November with the hope of keeping control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in Republican hands.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Missoula, Montana; additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)