Ed linked Alicia Acuna’s written report at FoxNews.com but here she is this morning on the air recounting what she saw last night. Ben Jacobs, the Guardian reporter, is fortunate in this sense: If the eyewitnesses in the room had worked for literally any outlet except Fox, we’d be awash today in theories that the media has conspired to grossly exaggerate what Gianforte did in an effort to take down the Republican candidate.
Well, we’ll be awash in them anyway. Just not as many.
John McCormack, himself once the recipient of a shove from an overzealous Martha Coakley campaign staffer, makes the case that Gianforte’s whitewash of what happened is worse than the assault itself:
Lying about anyone is wrong, but a journalist’s livelihood depends on his reputation for honest and accurate reporting. My biggest concern after the Coakley incident—which occurred a few months after another campaign called the cops on me for asking questions (persistently but politely!) and then lied about my behavior—was that the Coakley campaign would spin the story, and some people wouldn’t believe me. It was quite a relief that there was videotape to confirm the accuracy of my reporting. So I can only imagine that what Jacobs is feeling right now is a sense of relief: Whatever physical injuries he sustained would’ve been nothing compared to damage done to his reputation if he hadn’t been lucky enough to have an audiotape and eyewitnesses to confirm the truth of his reporting.
Compare Acuna’s account of the incident in the clip to the statement she reads from Team Gianforte. She claims the candidate had his hands on Jacobs’s neck and then started punching him once he was down on the ground. Gianforte says he went for Jacobs’s phone, was grabbed on the wrist by Jacobs, and then they both toppled over. Now the GOP’s in a no-win situation. If Gianforte loses today’s special election, they’ll be battered with “first signs of a Democratic wave!” stories tomorrow. If he wins, they’ll be battered with questions about whether the House will refuse to seat Gianforte if he’s convicted of the assault charge pending against him, plus about a billion hot takes from the left about the “climate of hate” towards the media that Trump has engendered and which supposedly drove Gianforte over the edge.
And it’s entirely possible that he’ll still win, and not just because Montana’s a deep red state. The early vote there is heavy, to the point where only a third to a quarter of all ballots will be cast today. The race was tight enough — single digits, per some polls — to give Democrat Rob Quist a chance of pulling the upset if the election-day vote breaks heavily towards him after last night’s fracas, but if it splits somewhat evenly, Gianforte might bring it home based on ballots already cast. If he does, except a lot of chatter this week about ending early voting in elections so that races aren’t decided by majorities with incomplete information about the candidates.