Montana governor beneath fireplace for vacationing throughout flood | National Information

RED LODGE, Mont. (AP) — As punishing floods tore by Yellowstone National Park and neighboring Montana communities, the state’s governor was nowhere to be seen.

In the speedy aftermath, the state issued a catastrophe declaration attributed to the Republican governor, however for some purpose it carried the lieutenant governor’s signature.

It wasn’t till Wednesday — greater than 48 hours after the flood hit the state — that Gov. Greg Gianforte’s workplace acknowledged he was overseas, although it wouldn’t say precisely the place he was, citing unspecified safety issues.

Gianforte lastly returned on Thursday night time from what his workplace mentioned was a trip together with his spouse in Italy. But he discovered himself dealing with a torrent of criticism for not hurrying house sooner and for not telling the general public his whereabouts throughout the emergency.

“In a moment of unprecedented disaster and economic uncertainty, Gianforte purposefully kept Montanans in the dark about where he was and who was actually in charge,” mentioned Sheila Hogan, govt director of the Montana Democratic Party.

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Gianforte, 61, is a tech mogul elected governor two years in the past. He made headlines when he body-slammed a reporter the day earlier than profitable a seat in Congress in a 2017 particular election. He initially misled investigators concerning the assault however ultimately pleaded responsible to misdemeanor assault.

While Gianforte was away, Montana’s lieutenant governor served as performing governor. And in Gianforte’s protection, his workplace mentioned he was briefed usually concerning the flooding, which precipitated widespread harm to small communities within the southern a part of the state and had threatened to chop off contemporary water to Billings, the state’s largest metropolis.

But Gianforte’s critics seized on his mysterious disappearance and began the mocking social media hashtag #WhereIsGreg. Montanans and others traded wisecracks about Gianforte and the Appalachian Trail — a reference to former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who disappeared in 2009 and had his workers inform reporters he was mountaineering the Appalachian Trail whereas he was truly having a tryst together with his lover in Argentina.

Montana reporters began asking extra questions after noticing Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras’ signature on the flood-disaster declaration.

“Truthfully, it speaks for itself. It just does,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana mentioned of the governor’s AWOL standing as he toured flood harm in Red Lodge on Friday. “When you’re in public service, there are things that take precedent, and this is pretty important.”

Gianforte lastly toured the flood zone Friday however did not tackle his absence. He as a substitute inspired guests to nonetheless come to the Yellowstone area.

“Here’s a very simple message for people that have planned trips to Yellowstone Park: We’re open. You’ve got to come. There’s so much to do in Montana,” he said. “The vitality of our communities depend on it, and your families need what we have in Montana.”

The floods washed away roads, bridges and houses and closed all of Yellowstone, threatening some of the communities on the park’s outskirts that depend heavily on tourists visiting one of America’s most beloved natural attractions.

Yellowstone officials said they could reopen the southern end of the park as soon as next week, offering visitors a chance to see Old Faithful and other attractions. But the northern entrances in Montana, which lead to the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley and Tower Fall, could be closed all summer, if not longer.

Scott Miller, a commissioner in Carbon County, where flooding heavily damaged the town of Red Lodge and other areas, said Friday that he had been able to contact the governor by phone when he needed to and that the state did not neglect any duties.

“The fact that the governor has been on vacation — there’s been no hiccups,” Miller mentioned. “That’s why you have people in your cabinet.”

In Red Lodge, Tester hesitated to criticize the governor, acknowledging he was in Washington this week working on a bill for veterans.

“Some could say, ‘Jon, why didn’t you come back Tuesday or Wednesday?’” Tester said. “These are hard situations. I don’t know what his circumstances were. … I’ve got a decent working relationship with the governor and want to continue that.”

Hanson reported from Helena, Montana. Associated Press journalists Brian Melley in Los Angeles, Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials is probably not revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed with out permission.

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