Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) knows what violence looks like. He was nearly killed after a crazed man shot him in the torso during a congressional baseball practice last summer. It took several months of surgeries and physical therapy, but Scalise eventually made his way back to Capitol Hill.
What Scalise experienced and the harassment Republicans are facing lately is nowhere near comparable to the off color jokes Trump President Trump made at his Montana rally Thursday night, the Louisianan argued. Before introducing Rep. Greg Gianforte, Trump mocked his "body slam" of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs last year. After the incident, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to community service and anger management training. Yet, Trump praised him last night as "his kind of guy."
Outrage ensued but Scalise assured folks it was just a joke.
President Trump was clearly ribbing Congressman Gianforte for last year’s incident, which he apologized for last year. It’s obvious he was not encouraging his supporters to engage in attacks, and not one person harassed the numerous media reporters who were present.— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 19, 2018
Scalise wasn't done. He went on to call the press "irresponsible" and "disingenuous" for crying foul over Trump's joke, yet ignoring real violent rhetoric from Democrats, some of which has resulted in Trump staffers being chased out of restaurants, verbally assaulted, or on the receiving end of death threats.
It’s irresponsible for the mainstream media to create a false equivalence between this and Democrat leaders in Washington regularly using threatening rhetoric to call on their supporters to harass Trump officials, supporters, and Republican members and candidates.— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 19, 2018
I find it disingenuous when some in the media refuse to report or call out actual violence by leftist protestors, yet they’ll whip into a hysterical frenzy over what clearly was a joke at a rally. This is about which party has the best ideas, not which party has the most bullies.— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 19, 2018
Yet, there are plenty of people still upset over Trump's Gianforte joke and gesture, particularly because of the timing. For the past few weeks, the world has been trying to figure out what happened to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The worst reports say he was murdered and dismembered for speaking out against the Suadi government. With that context, Trump's joke about violence against the press was especially cringeworthy to many.
Some journalists at the Gianforte rally, like CNN's Jim Acosta, claim the president's body slam joke did incite violence. One Trump supporter, Acosta said on Twitter, looked in his direction, slid his finger across his throat and "couldn't stop laughing."