President Donald Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., Thursday for physically assaulting a reporter during a House race last year — remarks that come amid calls for Trump to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for the disappearance and apparent killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"Never wrestle him," Trump said of Gianforte at a campaign rally in an airplane hangar in Missoula, Montana, NBC News reported. "Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my guy."
Trump doubled down on Friday, calling Gianforte "a tough cookie."
Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault last year after he laid hands on Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger-management counseling and payment of a $385 fine.
The Guardian's U.S. editor, John Mulholland, said in a statement provided after the rally, "to celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it."