Don Lemon’s CNN show ended on a very sour note as he got into a shouting match with Trump supporter Paris Dennard over whether or not President Trump had any culpability in the “body slamming assault of a reporter by a GOP candidate for Congress in Montana Wednesday.
“You ask why is this happening right now,” Dennard said. “There’s a hilarious movie called the Election, where, y’know the candidate is doing crazy things, he’s saying crazy things…”
“You don’t think it’s because the guy who’s in office now has said very horrible things about reporters and has said that the reporters are the enemy of the American people?” Lemon interrupted.
“No, no, Don,” Dennard replied.
“I think that has, that has nothing to do with anything?” Lemon continued. “That people think that they can get away with it because I don’t believe that you actually believe that. There’s no way you believe what you’re saying. If you believe that’s true.”
“Oh, he believes it,” interjected co-panelist Ana Navarro.
“Well actually I didn’t get a chance to say anything,” Dennard said, “but I will tell you now what I think and that is, and what we have right now is a ground swelling of of people who are not being respectful, who are not acting civil, and people who are just saying things that are inappropriate.”
“And why do you think that is,” Lemon asked, “after a country that is, you know hundreds of years old where we don’t have incidents like this, for the most part, and all of a sudden we’re having incidents like this now, you don’t, you think it’s just a coincidence?”
“No I think if we look back at history,” Dennard explained, “we can see that, especially in this country, we have had a lot of instances with violence with politicians and people going back and forth, but my point is this, Don. We have an issue right now going on where people think they can do anything with their fists, and with their hands like this candidate did, and we have people who think they can say anything they can want to as well. They are both wrong.”
“You don’t, c’mon Paris,” Lemon asked, “you don’t think it has anything to do with someone saying…”
“Don,” Dennard tried to respond, “if you’re trying to make a connection or a correlation between…”
“I’m not trying, I’m telling you,” Lemon interrupted, raising his voice, “I’m telling you I am, I’m not trying, I’m just saying I can’t believe that you believe the words that are coming out of your mouth.”
The argument devolved into a shouting match at this point.
“You’re obviously on television just saying that because you feel that you have to defend everything about this particular person in office, if you actually sit there,” Lemon accused.
“What particular person?!” Dennard yelled. “What does Donald Trump have anything to do with what this candidate did? Let’s hold this candidate responsible…”
“Reporters, they’re the fake people back there,” Lemon interjected, quoting Trump loosely from the campaign trail, “they’re horrible people, the enemy of the American people. If you think that doesn’t have anything to do with it, you are sadly mistaken, my friend.”
“Well then call me sadly mistaken, but you’re wrong.” Dennard replied.
“I just did,” Lemon snapped back, “thank you, goodnight everybody.” And the show ended.
The incident they referred to happened on the campaign trail for a special election in Montana for a U.S. House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who joined the Trump administration. Reporter Ben Jacobs accosted Republican nominee Greg Gianforte, who allegedly grabbed him when he got angered by his questioning, threw him to the ground, and punched him.
During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.
At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”
They reported that Jacobs showed no “physical aggression” towards Gianforte at any point, despite his statement saying otherwise.
Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault by a Sheriff who disclosed in a press release that he had donated to the candidate’s campaign.