Greg Gianforte, shown in a March photo, bodyslammed reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground Wednesday for asking a question about health care. It was yet another in a line of assaults against the First Amendment. Matt Volz AP
Greg Gianforte, shown in a March photo, bodyslammed reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground Wednesday for asking a question about health care. It was yet another in a line of assaults against the First Amendment. Matt Volz AP

Taylor Batten

Gianforte just the latest to assault the First Amendment

By Taylor Batten

Editorial Page Editor

May 25, 2017 12:50 PM

The First Amendment was in critical condition Thursday after falling victim to a series of violent assaults, authorities said.

Mr. Amendment’s condition was reported as unstable, and family members were asking members of the public to pray for his recovery, and also to demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice. Officials said they had reason to believe that further attacks were possible, particularly if Citizens Watch groups weren’t vigilant.

Mr. Amendment has long been a renowned figure in this country, contributing to its strength and freedom for 225 years. In the past year or so, though, some began dismissing him and forgetting his long record. Recently, that dismissive attitude turned violent.

In Montana on Wednesday night, Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte grabbed Mr. Amendment “by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” a witness from Fox News reported. “At no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see (Amendment) show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”

Batten
Photo by John D. Simmons jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

After being asked a question about health care, Gianforte yelled, “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” during the attack.

Gianforte had threatened Mr. Amendment previously. At an event of the Advancing Conservatism Society last month, an audience member said, “Our biggest enemy is the news media. How can we rein in the news media?”

Gianforte responded by pointing to Mr. Amendment and saying, “We have someone right here. It seems like there are more of us than there is of him.”

Gianforte’s campaign denied he became violent. But Mr. Amendment’s own recording of Wednesday’s incident proved Gianforte was lying about what happened, ironically demonstrating the importance of Mr. Amendment’s work in holding power to account even amid his own assault.

There were reports that Gianforte might still be elected because Montana residents are known for their fierce sense of independence and freedom. However, it is Mr. Amendment, not Gianforte, who has done the most to ensure Montana citizens are free by holding government officials accountable.

Gianforte was emboldened to attack Mr. Amendment by other recent muggings. Earlier this month, Mr. Amendment was arrested after he attempted to question Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in a hallway at the West Virginia state Capitol. Amendment was handcuffed and charged with “willful disruption of governmental processes.”

Last week, Amendment was pinned against a wall in a public hallway at the Federal Communications Commission after he tried to do his job.

“Commissioner, I have a question,” Amendment said to Commissioner Michael O’Rielly after a public hearing. Two security officials then pressed him against the wall as O’Rielly walked by.

Amendment was wearing a press pass and holding a pad and pen and a recorder. “There was absolutely nothing in my countenance that could be perceived as a threat,” he said. The FCC later apologized.

A cousin of Mr. Amendment’s was murdered in Mexico this month for reporting on drug trafficking.

The U.S. attacks have intensified since Donald Trump openly vilified the press during the 2016 presidential campaign. That has apparently led some Americans to see the First Amendment as a partisan player, when he clearly is not.

Amendment’s closest friends worry that they are the only ones paying attention to his condition. It will take everyone’s support, they said, to nurse him back to health.

Email: tbatten@

charlotteobserver.com; on Twitter @tbatten1

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