In recent days, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., has criticized President Donald Trump’s vitriol toward the media, but campaign-finance records show Curbelo took thousands of dollars from a colleague who physically attacked a reporter last year.
In August, according to Federal Election Commission records, Curbelo took a $2,700 campaign contribution from Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., who was charged with assaulting a Guardian reporter attempting to ask him questions on the eve of a special election last year.
A spokeswoman for Curbelo, who is trying to hold onto his seat in a district Trump lost by more than 16 points in 2016, did not respond to a request for comment.
Several other embattled incumbent Republicans have taken money from Gianforte this cycle: Brian Mast of Florida, French Hill of Arkansas, Jason Lewis of Minnesota and Jeff Denham of California.
Gianforte was booked and charged with assaulting the reporter, Ben Jacobs, the day before the 2017 special election for Montana’s at-large congressional seat. Jacobs was attempting to interview Gianforte when the candidate threw him to the ground, punched him multiple times and told him, “Get the hell out of here.”
Gianforte still won the election, getting 49.9 percent of the vote. Three weeks later, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management.
On Thursday, Politico reported that Jacobs’s attorney sent a letter to Gianforte threatening to exit to their settlement agreement after the congressman told a Montana newspaper that he didn’t assault the reporter, despite admitted in the settlement that he had.
Trump reminded the country of Gianforte’s arrest last week when, at a rally in Missoula, Mont., he praised Gianforte for his “body-slam,” even miming a wrestling move.
“Never wrestle him,” Trump said. “You understand that? Never. Any guy who can do a bodyslam, he’s my kind of guy.”
Trump said he was in Rome when Gianforte was arrested and thought the Republican would surely lose.
“We endorsed Greg very early, but I heard he body-slammed a reporter,” Trump said, pointing to members of the media at the back of the venue, drawing a cheer from the crowd. “I said: ‘Oh, this is terrible. He’s going to lose the election.’ Then I said: ‘Wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him.’ And it did.”
Trump made the comments as his administration sought answers in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi critical of the country’s monarchy who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
Curbelo has been critical of Trump’s posture toward journalists and news organizations, which he has derided as “fake news” and vilified as the “enemy of the people.” On Wednesday, Curbelo decried the tenor of American politics after the discovery of pipe bombs intended for Trump’s political targets.
On Oct. 1, he called out Trump for telling ABC News reporter Cecila Vega, “I know you’re not thinking, you never do,” during a Rose Garden news conference.
“Gratuitous disrespect for members of the media is unnecessary and promotes the toxic political culture that dominates our country these days,” Curbelo tweeted in response. “If the President does it why wouldn’t everyone else?”
Gratuitous disrespect for members of the media is unnecessary and promotes the toxic political culture that dominates our country these days. If the President does it why wouldn’t everyone else? @realDonaldTrump do your part to heal our country’s politics. https://t.co/s6uCwZaP1M
— Carlos Curbelo (@carloslcurbelo) October 1, 2018