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Montana incivility or press stupidity? - Albia Newspapers: Opinion

Montana incivility or press stupidity?

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Posted: Friday, June 2, 2017 9:09 am

It has been a blessing and a curse this past week following the story of Montana’s new congressman grabbing a reporter by the throat and body slamming him to the floor after asking the guy several times to stop asking him the same question.

At one level it speaks to the continued incivility between public servants and the press. At another, it makes you want to say, “It’s about time.”

“Only in Montana,” may be the title of the next Toby Keith song, following up on his “A Few More Cowboys,” that has in its lyrics:

If we had a little more grit, less politics,

And more fist fights,

Met ‘em at high noon, hell, it’s about high time,

We looked ‘em in the eye, got our head out of the sand,

Hit ‘em with a big John Wayne, by God they’d understand.

I’ll give Toby a start.

“Only in Montana where a fella can

kick a reporter in the ?$#!

if he continues to give you sass”

Right now Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte makes me laugh, particularly since the Guardian reporter, whose glasses were broken, is all right. Gianforte showed some really unpleasantness when he flattened the guy, but there is this code in the West that says enough is enough. The reporter could have and should have recognized that.

An acquaintance asked me if, as a newspaper guy, I’d ever been accosted by an enraged politician or anyone else, for that matter. Yes and no is the answer. I had a drunk throw a rock through the newspaper window when we reported his public intoxication arrest, right after he threatened to cancel his “prescription.”

I walked into District Court Judge Sullivan’s courtroom in Charles City darned near 40 years ago and was almost immediately thrown out, escorted by a police officer. I was misidentified by the crotchety Judge Sullivan for a Des Moines Register reporter and was later let back in. Covering an East Waterloo boys basketball team the year they won the state tournament in 1974 as a cub reporter, the legendary Coach Murray Weir threw a clipboard at my head and cursed at me when I asked for a quote following an early season victory.

“You should see him when he loses,” deadpanned the legendary Waterloo Courier sports editor Russ L. Smith when I told him I didn’t get a quote. I would have loved three warnings.

I’ve had two or three citizens come into my office with complaints who ended the conversation with threats of beatings, but in nearly 40 years of reporting no one has ever laid a glove on me nor me a glove on anyone else. For one thing, when I’ve been asked (either politely or curtly) to stop asking a question, I stop asking the question…to that person. Making end runs to get at the truth is perfectly appropriate in the world of journalism…as long as you have people willing to go on record.

The fact that the people of Montana elected the temperamental Gianforte actually says more about how Montanans view reporters than how they judge their elected representatives. And in large measure, Americans are getting sick of the treatment the press is dishing out to President Trump. It doesn’t take a genie to understand unfairness when the President is blamed for Gianforte’s temper tantrum when he’s 8,000 miles away in Europe.

They say his tone, his dismissiveness, his use of the words “fake news,” all play into the corrosive atmosphere between the press and politicians. Sort of like Hillary Clinton calling Midwest conservative Americans a “bag full of deplorables” or President Obama sniffing at evangelical Christians in the Heartland as “needing their guns and Bibles.”

Actually there is an easily accessible list of U.S. Presidents who have resorted to physical violence against their detractors starting with Theodore Roosevelt who with one-punch knocked out a drunk who dared call him “four-eyes.” A fellow politician said of the former President following his death, “Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake there would have been a fight.”

In his biography of Abraham Lincoln, author Carl Sandburg describes an incident during Lincoln’s first run for Congress, when he was mounting a box to speak just as a fist fight broke out in the crowd. Lincoln “stepped off the box, shouldered his way to the fight, picked a man by the scruff of the neck and the seat of the breeches, and threw him ten feet for a fall.” Lincoln then returned to his box and made his speech.

Then there is “Old Hickory,” Andrew Jackson who many compare Donald Trump to. Back in Tennessee Jackson was helping put out a house fire, organizing men into a bucket brigade when a drunk tried to upstage him. Jackson grabbed a bucket, cold cocked the guy and continued to fight the fire. Prior to being elected President, Jackson dueled with a man named Charles Dickenson who had allegedly insulted Jackson’s (rather homely) wife. Dickenson shot Jackson in the ribs and Jackson sent a bullet dead center into Dickenson’s belly, killing him almost instantly. Another man, Richard Lawrence, attempted to assassinate President Jackson, both of his pistols misfired and Jackson beat the guy to death with his cane.

At some weird level, this is what many Americans are searching for in their President and politicians—someone who will stand up and fight for them—literally stand up and fight.

The Kathy Griffin incident cements in the minds of many, many Americans that left-wing Hollywood types have lost their minds. Griffin was photographed with a very good Hollywood created severed head of Donald Trump. It was beyond distasteful and even CNN, who hires this so-called comedian to host their New Year’s Eve show eventually fired her.

Interesting that they had to take awhile to consider the firing. Had this been a conservative Republican, photographed with the severed head of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the lynching would have started immediately.

She later apologized, but a TMZ video shows her with the photographer knowing exactly the kind of response this would generate. And she still did it. A left-wing letter writer in Wednesday’s Des Moines Register decries the bully tactics of Rep. Gianforte and accuses President Trump of caveman mentality, yet never suggests the so-called comedians Kathy Griffin and Stephen Colbert ever step over the line or that rioting Demcrats in the Texas statehouse are at all wrong.

I think incivility cuts both ways.

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