The GOP candidate for Montana’s lone House seat, Greg Gianforte, reportedly assaulted a reporter for The Guardian.
According to The Guardian, reporter Ben Jacobs asked Gianforte about the recently released Congressional Budget Office score for the House’s Affordable Healthcare Act. Per audio of the incident, Gianforte attempted to direct Jacobs toward his campaign spokesman before, in Jacobs’ words, “body-slamming” him. The audio is below. From the Guardian:
Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire running for the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.
“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
Jacobs subsequently reported the incident to the police. The Gallatin County sheriff’s office is investigating the incident.
A statement by campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon blamed Jacobs for the incident, saying that he “entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions”.
Scanlon’s account appears to be contradicted by audio of the abortive interview recorded by Jacobs. The audio does not capture Jacobs being asked to leave or lower his recorder, but does contain an apparent reference to the Guardian’s previous attempts to report on Gianforte. “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” Gianforte said. “The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?”
“Yes! You just broke my glasses,” Jacobs replied.
“The last guy did the same damn thing,” Gianforte said.
“You just body slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacobs said.
“Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte yelled.
The altercation took place at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana. Gianforte was in a side room with a local television news crew when Jacobs attempted to ask his question, according to Jacobs.
Jacobs later posted a picture of himself in an ambulance, holding up his broken glasses, which you can see below.
Gianforte is the GOP nominee for Montana’s lone congressional seat, which was previously held by Republican Ryan Zinke before he became Secretary of the Interior for the Trump Administration. He previously ran for governor of Montana, losing to incumbent Steve Bullock (D). His opponents in the race are musician and three-term Montana Arts Council member Rob Quist (D) and rancher/author Mark Wicks (Libertarian).
It goes without saying: even if Gianforte wins tomorrow’s house race in Montana, this incident should (by all rights) taint both his candidacy and occupation in the House.
UPDATE: Gianforte was later cited for “misdemeanor assault.” Read our full story here.