On the eve of a competitive special election for an open House of Representatives seat in Montana, the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, was charged with assaulting a reporter at a campaign event on Wednesday.
Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, said he approached Gianforte at the rally to ask him for his thoughts on the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the GOP’s health care bill.
Jacobs had his recorder on when he asked the question and, according to audio The Guardian posted online, Gianforte declined to answer the question, telling Jacobs he should speak with his spokesman. But after Jacobs pressed him on the question, the candidate lost his composure and reportedly “body-slammed” Jacobs, throwing him to the ground and breaking his glasses.
Gianforte can be heard yelling amid the crash, “I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last time you came here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here.”
Jacobs responded, “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.”
Gianforte then asked if Jacobs was with The Guardian, and said, “Your last guy did the same damn thing.”
It’s unclear what Gianforte was referring to. Jacobs then told Gianforte he would “like to call the police,” and asked for the names of the individuals in the room before a man said to Jacobs, “You gotta leave.”
Listen to the audio here:
Fox News reporters who witnessed the assault described the incident in an account posted online.
“Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” they wrote. “Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter.”
Gianforte was later charged with misdemeanour assault.
Shane Scanlon, Gianforte’s spokesman, provided a dramatically different account of the incident.
“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined,” Scanlon said in a statement. “Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.”
Gianforte is not heard in the audio asking Jacobs to move away or lower his phone.
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