On Wednesday, the eve of a Montana special election, Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte was seen body-slamming and punching a reporter who dared to ask him about the GOP healthcare bill. An audio recording seemed to back up witness accounts, and Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.
The next day, Montana voters sent Gianforte to Congress.
Perhaps there's a disconnect between how people react in public to such a stunning development and how they vote in private, but if it had been up to The Times' letter writers, the only thing Gianforte would have been delivering on Thursday was an apology, not a victory speech.
Encino resident Branden Frankel doesn't like where this is headed:
One can draw a direct line from President Trump's grotesque declaration that journalists are the enemies of the American people to the actions of now Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte. And one can draw a direct line from the hateful, paranoid garbage peddled by Fox News and other right-wing news outlets to the election of Donald Trump. Trump himself is without equal when it comes to peddling conspiracy theories.
One need only look at recent history — for example when a man showed up with a gun at a Washington pizza parlor in response to an outlandish conspiracy theory about a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton — to see where we are headed. If politicians, who were once upon a time supposed to be role models, start assaulting journalists, it's only a matter of time before an armed, brainwashed lunatic kills one.
Robin Weitz of Los Angeles similarly fingers Trump:
Gianforte body-slams a journalist to the ground and breaks his glasses, and this is fine to the citizens in Montana, who go on to elect him to Congress. Bully culture reins supreme in the era of Trump. No one is going to tell the people of Montana how to vote, and they are going to elect a despicable Neanderthal if they want.
But should I be surprised? When the president of the United States shoves aside a prime minister from another country apparently because he wants to be in the front of the pack, then straightens his suit to look good for the photographers, this is just the new standard of political behavior.
How low can we sink? Truly, how low?
Joe Elliott of Asheville, N.C. imagines Gianforte as an Old West hero:
As I listened to the recording of the attack on the reporter, the image of a 1950s movie hero flashed across my mind. Gianforte (played by Gary Cooper) is in the role of the iconic western figure standing up for his rights, versus the city slicker reporter:
"Sheriff, I reckon I got a little riled when he said them things. I'm sorry."
"No need, Greg. Let's just say he slipped and fell, and leave it at that, shall we?"
Less amusingly, I thought of the assault on Sen. Charles Sumner by Rep. Preston Brooks in 1856. Sometimes it feels to me as if I'm living in a "Looney Tunes" version of American democracy.