Greg Gianforte's 'body slam' echoes past violence against journalists

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With incessant loose talk about Watergate and cancers on the presidency, we finally have a bona fide Richard Nixon connection: a journalist getting assaulted by a politician.

Ben Jacobs, the Guardian U.S. reporter pummeled by Montana candidate Greg Gianforte (who won last night), probably doesn't know Drew Pearson. But he now shares a legacy with one of Washington's most influential, if forgotten reporters.

Nobody had more influence for about 30 years than Pearson, a kingpin in the 1930s-1960s. As Thomas Mallon wrote in The New Yorker two years ago:

"From the thirties through the sixties, no one crossed the journo-politico line in search of real policy impact with greater fervor than Drew Pearson, the author of the syndicated newspaper column Washington Merry-Go-Round. Accompanied by Pearson's mustachioed thumbnail image, it ran so widely and for so long that the purveyor became a figure in the popular culture."

His Montana relevance stems from his unceasing criticism of red-baiting Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy. At a 1950 dinner at a private club, they sparred. McCarthy then confronted Pearson in the hat check room and either slapped him (said McCarthy) or kneed him twice in the groin (said Pearson) — in the presence of Nixon, just sworn in as a senator from California.

"Pearson had repeatedly questioned his dubious claims about subversives in high government positions, his taxes, and his bullying tactics," says journalist-historian Evan Thomas, co-author with Walter Isaacson of "The Wise Men," which underscores Pearson's role.

Oh, as far as media and public outrage over the Pearson incident, there wasn't much. It was, after all, a world without cable news, the internet, cellphones or Siri.

Or the sort of outright animus toward the press that may be one reason a rich Montana thug is going to Congress.

A late apology in Bozeman

Gianforte "emerged only at his victory celebration Thursday night, where he said he accepted responsibility for the incident. 'Last night, I made a mistake, and I took an action I can’t take back, and I am not proud of what happened,' Gianforte told the crowd. 'I should not have responded the way I did, and for that I am sorry.'" (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

A European take on Trump at NATO

"Even with all those presidential figures on hand in Brussels, it was hard to ignore the feeling that, as European leaders were getting to know the president they must now deal with, they were being offered a tantalising glimpse of the president they preferred." (BBC)

"Whether by coincidence or not, Barack Obama was appearing at around the same time 700km (435 miles) down the road at a huge public event in Berlin."

How popular is Trump, really?

Trump's not a popular guy but has a very solid base, correct?

"But the theory isn’t supported by the evidence," writes Nate Silver. "To the contrary, Trump’s base seems to be eroding." (FiveThirtyEight)

"There’s been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump, from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just 21 or 22 percent of the electorate now...far from having unconditional love from his base, Trump has already lost almost a third of his strong support."

A poignant bonanza

Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg informs readers that "over the past week, more than 8 million people have read The Atlantic's latest cover story, 'My Family's Slave,' by the writer Alex Tizon."

Tizon's tale is about a rather stunning family secret, namely that his immigrant parents employed a slave for decades. He died in his sleep of natural causes on the precipice of its publication.

JFK on immigration

The Anti-Defamation League and the Blum-Kovler Foundation took out a full-page ad in The New York Times quoting a rather obscure pre-White House book by John F. Kennedy, "Nation of Immigrants."

It would have been Kennedy's 100th birthday and served to remind of the desire for humanitarian treatment of those who seek refuge in the U.S.

Hear no evil, see no evil in Montana

"If Montana residents tuned into the local news Wednesday night on NBC affiliate KECI, they wouldn’t have heard an audio recording of Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte attacking Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, even as it got widespread airplay on national television and online." (HuffPost)

“NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from independent, reliable sources, officials and documents, regardless of what is reported by other media outlets,” anchor Laurel Staples explained to the 10 p.m. audience."

And there wasn't anything on its website even as of last evening.

Rush's empathetic callers

Steve Thomma, a terrific reporter who's new executive director of the White House Correspondents' Association, was listening to Rush Limbaugh and tweeted, "Another MT caller to Rush on roughing up reporters: 'If enough of this happens, those reporters are gonna learn to back off a little bit.'"

Kushner's wheeling and dealing

The Times and the Post can't break every Trump story. Thus, a good one from Bloomberg:

"When Saudi Arabia announced last week a $20 billion investment in a U.S. infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone Group LP, many noticed that it came shortly after presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner personally negotiated a $110-billion arms sale to the country. What went unnoticed — and is largely unknown — is how important Blackstone is to the Kushner family company." (Bloomberg)

Barkley's best

TNT had a lot of time to fill after Cleveland again embarrassed the Boston Celtics last night, prompting Charles Barkley to rate his top NBA players (in the presence of colleague Shaquille O'Neal):

Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

CSI NYT

Good work. The New York Times analyzed video and the actions of 24 men who attacked Turkish protesters in Washington last week. Charges weren't brought but obviously should have been.

"Turkey’s president, Mr. Erdogan, watched the brawl from a black Mercedes-Benz sedan parked nearby, at the Turkish ambassador’s residence. His role in the clash, if any, is unclear. But video of his entourage shows that at least one member of the security detail positioned next to him rushed into the fight and started kicking and punching protesters."

The morning babble

Yes, there was Donald Rumsfeld, a sprightly 84, on "Fox & Friends," plugging a military charity but also supporting Trump's NATO performance after lots of earlier, exultant chatter by the co-hosts on the Montana special election ("a major GOP victory.")

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and CNN's "New Day" quickly pivoted to both Jared Kushner being the White House "person of interest" in the growing Russia investigation and Trump's sketchy NATO appearance. MSNBC ad guy-pundit Donny Deutsch probably uttered the words "Article Five" for the first time, while Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien was strong on CNN with an overview of Kushner family ties to Russia and what the probe might mean.

Joe Scarborough called Trump's hostility to NATO allies bizarre and said it "feeds into the suspicion that Putin has something on Donald Trump."

Meanwhile, on WGN-TV, the Chicago morning show that crushes cable competitors, they were talking about a salsa dancing, longtime Giants wide receiver signed by the Bears, as well as the local wet weather forecast, traffic news, a couple that had sextuplets and word of city beaches opening today.

Sean Hannity's vacation

"Like the rest of the country, Sean Hannity is taking a vacation for Memorial Day weekend and will be back on Tuesday," said his employer. "Those who suggest otherwise are going to look foolish."

Well, for those who do work Friday, enjoy the weekend, too. Knock on wood that one kid's soccer team has insufficient warm bodies for a weekend tournament in a boring burb. It leaves us with a houseguest, my pitching batting practice tonight, fishing in Wisconsin Saturday, two parties and a Monday parade. Light duty. Cheers.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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