Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte was nowhere to be discovered this week, as his state was devastated by historic flooding.
The flooding, triggered by torrential rain and fast snowmelt, devastated communities throughout southwest Montana. Swollen rivers washed away bridges, buildings and full roads in and round Yellowstone Nationwide Park, stranded vacationers and polluted consuming water in lots of communities. The Nationwide Park Service shuttered all of Yellowstone, and northern areas of the park are anticipated to stay closed for months — dealing what’s more likely to be a devastating blow to the economies of gateway communities like Gardiner, which had been hard-hit in the course of the early a part of the pandemic when tourism floor to a halt.
However for days, Gianforte’s workplace refused to reveal the governor’s whereabouts, citing “security reasons.” It acknowledged in statements to native reporters that he’d left the nation final week, earlier than the floods, on a “long-scheduled private journey with the primary girl,” and mentioned he was returning house “early and as shortly as doable.”
Across the state capitol in Helena, rumors swirled that the governor was in Africa, seemingly on safari, in keeping with a Twitter post from Max Croes, a longtime Democratic marketing campaign supervisor and staffer primarily based in Helena.
Maritsa Georgiou, a correspondent for Newsy primarily based in Missoula, finally discovered that the governor and his spouse had been vacationing in Tuscany, the ritzy area of central Italy. Newsy obtained a photograph from an nameless supply that confirmed the couple eating at a restaurant within the village Casole d’Elsa. The image was reportedly taken 12 minutes after Gianforte’s workplace despatched out its assertion in regards to the governor returning to Montana “as shortly as doable.”
The incident shortly earned Gianforte comparisons to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who famously fled to Cancun, Mexico, final 12 months as his state was reeling from winter storms and widespread energy outages.
Gianforte’s workplace didn’t reply to HuffPost’s request for remark Friday morning. However in a statement to native press, it lastly confirmed his whereabouts.
“With the governor again within the state and safety issues not a problem, we’re offering data as promised,” Brooke Stroyke, a spokeswoman for the governor, wrote. “The governor departed early Saturday morning to Italy along with his spouse for a long-planned private, personal journey.” His workplace has by no means detailed what “safety issues” had been at play, or why it took a number of days for him to return.
Stroyke famous Gianforte had delegated his authority to Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras, who signed a statewide emergency declaration within the governor’s absence. She mentioned the 2 “labored intently during the last 4 days to take swift, decisive motion.”
Gianforte is scheduled to go to Gardiner, positioned on the north entrance of Yellowstone Nationwide Park, on Friday to survey injury, in keeping with his workplace.
Whereas Gianforte was in Italy, Montana Nationwide Guard troopers had been rescuing dozens of his constituents from floodwaters. A group from the Federal Emergency Administration Company, together with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, was on the ground assessing flood injury. And President Joe Biden approved a serious catastrophe declaration for the state.
When Cruz escaped winter storm-ravaged Texas for sunny Mexico final 12 months, conservatives flocked to his defense with absurd justifications, together with that he would have had nothing to supply Texans and was “not utilizing up useful assets of power, meals and water.”
Montana Republicans have equally come to Gianforte’s protection.
“No matter the place he was, he was speaking with the individuals on the bottom to ensure that the problems had been being addressed,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) told Fox Information.