Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, on Friday slammed President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE for calling Rep. Greg GianforteGregory Richard GianforteLawsuit challenges Montana ban on employer vaccine mandates Montana governor issues rules requiring schools to consider 'parental concerns' about masks Montana Gov. Gianforte allocates more than million in federal aid for school virus testing 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.
Trump called Rep. Gianforte a "tough cookie." @BenCJacobs: "A tough cookie doesn't attack somebody out of nowhere, without provocation, for asking a question about health care policy." pic.twitter.com/K3M1G06vgw— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 20, 2018
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.
"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.