CNN's Chris Cuomo invites Gianforte to body slam him

CNN host Chris Cuomo on Friday invited 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.) to body-slam him after he condemned President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE's praise for the Republican congressman, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter last year.

"There is no question about what he did being wrong and illegal," Cuomo said of Gianforte body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017. "But the president celebrated him at a rally … Why does Trump praise bullies? Time and again, he celebrates punks who go after the little guy," he continued.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Everything Gianforte did is weak, OK?" Cuomo later added. "He attacked someone who wasn’t a threat, was at every disadvantage, Gianforte showed no control, no confidence, no respect for his office or his constituents or for the law. He is weak. And if he doesn’t like it, he can come body-slam me as well. I welcome it.”

Cuomo's comments come after Trump praised the Montana Republican at a campaign rally in Missoula, Mont., on Thursday, lauding him as a "a tremendous person" and "a tough cookie." 

Gianforte pleaded 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.

Trump, who has carried on an antagonistic relationship with the press, drew condemnation for his remarks, which came as the international community turned its focus to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose death was later acknowledged by Saudi Arabia on Friday night. Trump, earlier Friday, said he did not regret praising Gianforte.

White House Correspondents’ Association president Olivier Knox said Friday that "all Americans should recoil from the president's praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his Constitutionally protected job."

Jacobs, the reporter who was assaulted by Gianforte, slammed Trump's remarks on CNN Friday evening.

"A 'tough cookie' doesn’t attack someone out of nowhere without provocation, for asking a question about health-care policy," he said.