Texas governor jokes about shooting reporters

Greg Abbott’s quip comes a day after a number of Republicans defended Greg Gianforte’s assault of a journalist.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay
CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

After signing a bill to reduce handgun license fees on Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) fired some shots at an indoor shooting range.

He then held up his target sheet and quipped, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Abbott’s joke might escape scrutiny under normal circumstances. But coming as it does less than 48 hours after Montana Republican Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter, violence against journalists is no laughing matter.

Abbott is far from alone in thinking Gianforte’s attack on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs is fun and games. A number of House Republicans cracked jokes about the assault, which Gianforte’s campaign initially tried to pin on the reporter’s “aggressive behavior.” (Jacobs’ account was corroborated by Fox News journalists, and Gianforte was eventually cited for assault.)

Gianforte apologized for his “mistake” after winning election to Congress, effectively revealing that the initial story he told about the assault was a lie.

Abbott’s quip about the Gianforte incident comes amid President Trump’s ongoing war on the news media, which he demonized during his campaign and recently characterized as “the enemy of the American people.”

Earlier this month, a reporter was arrested for repeatedly shouting questions at Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the West Virginia state capitol. Last week, a veteran Washington journalist was manhandled by security guards while trying to ask FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly a question after a press conference.

Those incidents prompted the National Press Club to issue a statement saying, “Incidents like these, occurring under a president who has openly threatened a free press, take on a greater and more ominous significance… And they do not seem to be isolated.”

There are indications Trump’s rhetoric and Gianforte’s violent outburst resonate with a not insignificant slice of the American population.

Following Gianforte’s victory, Vice President Mike Pence commended him for his “gracious” victory speech, and Trump characterized his election as a “great win in Montana.” Neither mentioned the assault.