What the heck happened with Greg Gianforte and that 'body slam'?

Looks as though Greg Gianforte won his special election in Montana yesterday, and handily.  But what's overshadowing the Republican's victory is the story about him "body-slamming" a reporter who's alleged to have gotten in his face during a media event.

Look at the headlines: "Greg Gianforte wins Montana special election a day after being charged with assault" (ABC), "Republican Gianforte Wins Montana House Race Amid Assault Charge" (NPR), "Gianforte wins: Montana House candidate facing assault charge wins special election" (Fox).

So there's your narrative.

Twitchy ran a long stream of tweets from a Buzzfeed reporter who was on site (sort of), and Fox News published an eyewitness account from one of the network's reporters.  It looked as though the Republican candidate really had beaten the hell out of The Guardian's Ben Jacobs, who was recorded (audio at the Fox story above) narrating that Gianforte "just broke my glasses."

Almost everyone who wrote on the story – my colleague Rick Moran included – assumed that events occurred exactly as these people at Fox, Buzzfeed, and the Guardian had described them.  But there are problems with the narrative.  Twitchy's Buzzfeed reporter, Alexis Levinson, "didn't see it all" from "behind a half closed door," but she also "saw Ben's feet fly in the air as he hit the floor" and "can't quite remember the order" of "the next few things."

Worse was Alicia Acuna, one of the Fox News reporters touted as an eyewitness.  Here's how she originally reported the Gianforte flap:

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, "I'm sick and tired of this!"

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer.

As one commentator noted, since when do seasoned reporters stand around with mouths gaping when something newsworthy is going on?  How did nobody in the room get video of the incident?  What does it mean to "begin punching" – was a punch actually thrown?  What kind of punch breaks a guy's glasses but not his skin?  No blood?  No bruising?

Then Acuna changed her story:

Details from Acuna's report quickly went viral online, but she said Thursday during an interview on "The Laura Ingraham Show" that she misstated the neck grab.

"One of you guys said last night that he put his hands around his neck," Ingraham said. "Which, as somebody who's done a lot of taekwondo and self-defense, to me that seemed, that might not be exactly right."

"You know, and I'm the one who said that," Acuna replied [and by "said," she must mean "wrote with forethought into a news story that passed through at least one editor before publication –ed.]. "I saw both his hands go up, not around his neck in a strangling type of way, but more just on each side of his neck, just grabbed him and I guess it could've been on his clothes, I don't know."

Regardless of what comes next, the narrative has been established: a Republican politician savaged a reporter who was just doing his job.  Gianforte made a massive error, per CNN.  Politico quotes two unknown Republicans – thus technically justifying the plural to cast the opinion as prevalent – alleging that Gianforte now has to "reset his image."  Even here at AT, Rick drew from the issue a baleful commentary on the decline of civil society in "the age of Trump."

But the Body Slam That Might Have Been says less about Greg Gianforte than it does about the media's creation and analysis of information, and about their self-worship.  What we should have is analysis we can debate based on a solid reporting foundation.  What we do have is analysis we're commanded to accept based on what some lady wearing a plastic badge kind of maybe saw from "behind a half closed door."  It's completely backward, and it speaks to why media credibility continues to decline – and why Greg Gianforte can shove? punch? grab? body-slam? who knows? a reporter and then win his seat.

(PS: For the latest round of "what if a Democrat had done it," Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit dug up a Dem House candidate who assaulted a police officer and wonders where all the screaming headlines are.  But I suspect that in this case, the anti-Republican agenda is taking a backseat to media self-worship.  Cops don't buy ink by the barrel, but the JournoListers sure do, and those guys have to protect each other's glasses if there's to be peace in media land.)

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.

Looks as though Greg Gianforte won his special election in Montana yesterday, and handily.  But what's overshadowing the Republican's victory is the story about him "body-slamming" a reporter who's alleged to have gotten in his face during a media event.

Look at the headlines: "Greg Gianforte wins Montana special election a day after being charged with assault" (ABC), "Republican Gianforte Wins Montana House Race Amid Assault Charge" (NPR), "Gianforte wins: Montana House candidate facing assault charge wins special election" (Fox).

So there's your narrative.

Twitchy ran a long stream of tweets from a Buzzfeed reporter who was on site (sort of), and Fox News published an eyewitness account from one of the network's reporters.  It looked as though the Republican candidate really had beaten the hell out of The Guardian's Ben Jacobs, who was recorded (audio at the Fox story above) narrating that Gianforte "just broke my glasses."

Almost everyone who wrote on the story – my colleague Rick Moran included – assumed that events occurred exactly as these people at Fox, Buzzfeed, and the Guardian had described them.  But there are problems with the narrative.  Twitchy's Buzzfeed reporter, Alexis Levinson, "didn't see it all" from "behind a half closed door," but she also "saw Ben's feet fly in the air as he hit the floor" and "can't quite remember the order" of "the next few things."

Worse was Alicia Acuna, one of the Fox News reporters touted as an eyewitness.  Here's how she originally reported the Gianforte flap:

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, "I'm sick and tired of this!"

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer.

As one commentator noted, since when do seasoned reporters stand around with mouths gaping when something newsworthy is going on?  How did nobody in the room get video of the incident?  What does it mean to "begin punching" – was a punch actually thrown?  What kind of punch breaks a guy's glasses but not his skin?  No blood?  No bruising?

Then Acuna changed her story:

Details from Acuna's report quickly went viral online, but she said Thursday during an interview on "The Laura Ingraham Show" that she misstated the neck grab.

"One of you guys said last night that he put his hands around his neck," Ingraham said. "Which, as somebody who's done a lot of taekwondo and self-defense, to me that seemed, that might not be exactly right."

"You know, and I'm the one who said that," Acuna replied [and by "said," she must mean "wrote with forethought into a news story that passed through at least one editor before publication –ed.]. "I saw both his hands go up, not around his neck in a strangling type of way, but more just on each side of his neck, just grabbed him and I guess it could've been on his clothes, I don't know."

Regardless of what comes next, the narrative has been established: a Republican politician savaged a reporter who was just doing his job.  Gianforte made a massive error, per CNN.  Politico quotes two unknown Republicans – thus technically justifying the plural to cast the opinion as prevalent – alleging that Gianforte now has to "reset his image."  Even here at AT, Rick drew from the issue a baleful commentary on the decline of civil society in "the age of Trump."

But the Body Slam That Might Have Been says less about Greg Gianforte than it does about the media's creation and analysis of information, and about their self-worship.  What we should have is analysis we can debate based on a solid reporting foundation.  What we do have is analysis we're commanded to accept based on what some lady wearing a plastic badge kind of maybe saw from "behind a half closed door."  It's completely backward, and it speaks to why media credibility continues to decline – and why Greg Gianforte can shove? punch? grab? body-slam? who knows? a reporter and then win his seat.

(PS: For the latest round of "what if a Democrat had done it," Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit dug up a Dem House candidate who assaulted a police officer and wonders where all the screaming headlines are.  But I suspect that in this case, the anti-Republican agenda is taking a backseat to media self-worship.  Cops don't buy ink by the barrel, but the JournoListers sure do, and those guys have to protect each other's glasses if there's to be peace in media land.)

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.