At his weekly news conference, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned Gianforte’s alleged conduct and suggested that he should apologize — something he has not done in the hours since the incident and since Gallatin County police interviewed witnesses and announced charges.
“There is no time where a physical altercation should occur,” Ryan said. “It should not have happened. Should the gentleman apologize? Yeah, I think he should apologize. I know he has his own version, and I’m sure he’ll have more to say.”
Asked twice whether Republicans would let Gianforte join their conference, Ryan said they would. “I’m going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative,” he said.
Gianforte, meanwhile, has been silent about the incident. His campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon, released a statement that blamed the “aggressive” behavior of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for what Fox News journalists in the room described as a violent, unprovoked attack. Gianforte had been slated to appear on Fox News and MSNBC on Thursday, but both networks announced that the appearances were scrapped. Democrat Rob Quist, who has said he’ll leave the matter up to law enforcement, was slated to rally in Missoula but was doing little media interaction of his own.
Gianforte was still planning to rally Thursday night in Bozeman when the results of the election roll in. Rank-and-file Republicans, who had been hoping for a Gianforte win to relieve some of the pressure around the American Health Care Act’s vote and rollout, gave mixed reactions when asked about the allegations.
“When you run for office, you can’t put your hands on people,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
“Unfortunately, it’s kind of a sign of the times with people running for office and the press,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.). “It’s not my style. There’s a lot of [adversariness] between mainstream media and politicians … it’s not an excuse. I’m just saying it creates sometimes unneeded energy.”