Who are you going to believe — this lying Republican or your very own eyes?

At a rally Thursday night, Trump gleefully praised Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte for assaulting a reporter last year, the night before his election. It was vicious and ugly and par for the course for Trump, who makes no secret of his disdain for journalists and his approval of violence against them.

But now one of Trump’s top enablers in Congress, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise — who aspires to take Paul Ryan’s place as leader of House Republicans — is insisting that’s not what really happened.

“President Trump was clearly ribbing Congressman Gianforte for last year’s incident, which he apologized for last year,” Scalise tweeted on Friday. “It’s obvious he was not encouraging his supporters to engage in attacks, and not one person harassed the numerous media reporters who were present.”

That’s a blatant lie, as anyone who watched the rally can see.

“Any guy that can do a body slam,” Trump said Thursday, “he’s my guy.” Trump happily re-enacted Gianforte body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, insisted Gianforte had nothing to be embarrassed about, and then recalled hearing about the incident at the time and saying, “I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him. And it did!”

The crowd of Trump fans laughed and cheered as Trump recalled the incident of violence against a reporter with plain delight.

“He’s a great guy,” Trump said.

And in case there was any doubt that Trump approved of Gianforte’s assault — which Gianforte first lied about and then belatedly admitted, after he won the election — Trump invited Gianforte on stage for a big round of applause.

Trump wasn’t “ribbing” Gianforte, as Scalise audaciously claims; he was obviously and unabashedly praising Gianforte for his despicable assault, and encouraging his crowd of supporters to do the same.

Worse, Scalise tried to shame reporters for their coverage of Trump’s rhetoric and behavior Thursday.

“I find it disingenuous when some in the media refuse to report or call out actual violence by leftist protestors, yet they’ll whip into a hysterical frenzy over what clearly was a joke at a rally,” Scalise said.

Republicans have recently taken to claiming, without any evidence whatsoever, that “leftists” are engaging in violence. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell actually claimed last week that he and his fellow Republican senators were “literally under assault” because survivors of sexual assault dared to protest the appointment and confirmed of alleged attempted rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

No Republican senators were assaulted, literally or otherwise. They were confronted in public by their constituents, who pleaded with them, often through tears, not to vote for an attempted rapist. Those Republicans senators mocked and sneered at the protesters, accused assault victims of being liars, voted for Kavanaugh, and then claimed they were the real victims.

Now Scalise is taking that same egregious and dishonest argument a step further, dismissing Trump’s obvious approval of violence as a mere “joke” when it was no such thing, while complaining that reporters are failing to cover non-existent violent protests.

Meanwhile, these same Republicans have had nothing to say about the violent mob of right-wing Trump supporters calling themselves “Proud Boys” who brutally attacked several individuals in New York a week ago.

And they’re already trying to make excuses for the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government, circulating smears on the reporter to somehow justify his gruesome killing.

There is an angry mob in this country. They laugh at the vicious mockery of assault victims. They cheer and applaud violent criminals who assault reporters. And they wear MAGA hats and wave Trump-supporting signs — all the while chanting for their political opponents to be imprisoned.

And no, contrary to Scalise’s blatant lie, this celebration of violence isn’t just a joke. It’s deadly serious.

Published with permission of The American Independent.