Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was reportedly on vacation in Italy as Yellowstone National Park experienced severe flooding. His office confirmed that he authorized his lieutenant governor to declare a “statewide disaster” amid the flooding. The governor’s office stated on Friday that he was on a “long-scheduled personal trip” in Tuscany with his wife Susan when the floods began, and that he would cut his trip short to come home “as quickly as possible.” He returned to Montana on Thursday evening and spent the next day touring the impacted counties with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT).
Questions about Gianforte’s whereabouts initially surfaced on Monday, when Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras signed a statewide disaster proclamation “on behalf of Governor Greg Gianforte” in response to the severe flooding. In the two days that followed, the governor’s administration failed to acknowledge his location, ultimately revealing on Wednesday that he was out of the country and would return as soon as he could. At the time, his administration declined to reveal Gianforte’s location, claiming undisclosed security concerns. A photo of the governor and his wife at a restaurant in Casole d’Elsa, a tiny town in Tuscany, was obtained by Newsy, a local news site, on Thursday. The snapshot was allegedly time-stamped at 9:31 p.m. local time on Wednesday, but the website refused to publish it.
When Gianforte returned to Montana, his staff acknowledged the trip to Tuscany and justified their lack of transparency about his movements, claiming that verifying a U.S. governor’s presence while overseas may raise security concerns. Following his return, his office explained, “With the governor back in the state and security concerns no longer an issue, we are providing information as promised.” The governor’s office also claimed that while abroad, he had communicated with federal and local officials regarding the flooding.
On Friday, while touring the damage, a Montana Free Press reporter asked if he might have handled the issue better, to which the governor responded, “No one could have predicted what happened this week. We haven’t seen flooding like this in 100 years.” He then advised travelers to reconsider their plans to visit the region, advising them to consider the surrounding towns. He also praised the emergency response to the flooding, emphasizing that no deaths or significant injuries had been recorded.