Guardian reporter: GOP lawmaker who assaulted me isn’t a ‘tough cookie,’ he’s a ‘coward’

Guardian reporter: GOP lawmaker who assaulted me isn’t a ‘tough cookie,’ he’s a ‘coward’

Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, on Friday slammed President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE for calling Rep. Greg GianforteGregory Richard GianforteJournalists seek federal, state support for right to inform the public Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo criticize Trump’s response to Coast Guard lieutenant's arrest Sarah Sanders: Trump hasn't ‘at any point’ done anything but ‘condemn violence against journalists' MORE (R-Mont.) a "tough cookie," saying that Gianforte's actions made him "a coward."

"A tough cookie doesn’t attack someone out of nowhere without provocation, for asking a question about health care policy," Jacobs said on CNN, a day after Trump lauded Gianforte's assault of him the day before a congressional election in 2017. 

Jacobs also said Gianforte lied about his encounter with him until the lawmaker realized there were audio recordings and eyewitnesses of their exchange. 

The Guardian reported in November 2017 that the congressman originally claimed Jacobs had initiated contact, according to a police incident report.

But that claim was contradicted by Fox News journalists who witnessed the incident. 

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"The police actually asked me afterwards, was there anything about the congressional budget office that might set him off, and then lie about it," he added. "That’s not the action of a tough cookie, that’s the action of a coward."

During a rally in Montana Thursday, Trump extolled Gianforte as his "kind" of guy, adding that the physical assault of a journalist likely helped the GOP lawmaker with Montana voters. 

“Never wrestle him. Never. Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of ... he’s my guy,” Trump said in Missoula, Mont. “We endorsed Greg really early, but I heard that he had body-slammed a reporter. And he was way up … and I said, ‘Oh, this is terrible, he’s going to lose the election.’ But then I said, ‘Well, wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him,’ and it did.

"He’s a great guy and a tough cookie,” Trump later added. 

The comment drew widespread condemnation from the press. The Guardian's U.S. editor rebuked the president shortly after the rally, saying in a statement that celebrating the attack of a journalist is an attack on the First Amendment. 

Gianforte pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault in June 2017 for his attack on Jacobs. He was sentenced to a 180-day deferred sentence, 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and a $300 fine along with an $85 court fee. 

Despite the assault charge, he won Montana’s at-large congressional seat by 6 points.