Comedian's Offer To Be A Bodyguard For Journalists Underscores Importance Of Defending The Press

"If any journalist wants me to ask a question for them so they can make it home in one piece, let me know."

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee writer Travon Free was joking, but his joke underscored the increasing tensions and danger that journalists face while covering communities that they care about.

"I'm 6'7 260 pounds," the comedian tweeted. "If any journalist wants me to ask a question for them so they can make it home in one piece, let me know."

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Free's comment came after Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs alleged on Twitter that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana's Congressional seat in a special election, "body slammed" him to the floor while he tried to ask questions about the American Health Care Act.

The Guardian released audio of the incident, where Gianforte can be heard telling Jacobs "we'll talk to you about that later." A scuffle can be heard after Jacobs presses on.

Several other journalists who were on site supported Jacobs' account of being body slammed. Three Fox News journalists described a surreal scene in which "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him." They were so shocked that when Jacobs asked for their names after the incident, they couldn't answer.

The alleged assault comes at a time when the press has been under increased pressure across the country. On May 9, West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman was arrested after peppering Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price with questions, and allegedly getting "too close." Throughout his campaign, President Donald Trump frequently bashed the "fake news" media and at times encouraged supporters to treat journalists in the press pen of his rallies poorly.

The result? A recent Gallup poll showed that just 32 percent of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.

Gianforte was given a citation for misdemeanor assault and has a court date set for June 7. He has since apologized. 

Despite all the uproar that followed the Jacobs' allegations, Gianforte still managed to win the special election. Robert Quist, the Democratic candidate for the election, conceded just after midnight on Friday morning. 

While the entire incident was a frightening reminder of growing anti-media sentiment, Fee's tweet will stand as a humorous but poignant offer to — literally — defend the free press.

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