Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte is facing an assault charge after he allegedly grabbed reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian and slammed him to the ground Wednesday night at a campaign event.
Jacobs had released audio of the incident, where he can be heard asking questions before Gianforte refused to answer and told him to leave, and then a loud crash could be heard. Jacobs tweeted that Gianforte “body slammed” him and broke his glasses. Later that night, Jacobs went into greater detail, telling MSNBC that he recalled Gianfore also being on top of him and hitting him. This backed up an account from Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna who described what she saw in an article Wednesday night.
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin held a press conference saying that his office would interview witnesses and review evidence before making decisions about charges, and then later issued a citation to Gianforte for misdemeanor assault. While Jacobs did receive medical treatment after the altercation, his injuries were apparently not significant enough to warrant a felony charge.
A spokesperson for Gianforte said after the incident but before the citation that Jacobs was the aggressor, saying that the reporter didn’t have permission to be in the room where Gianforte had been, and ignored requests to leave and remove a recorder that he “shoved” in Gianforte’s face. “After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined,” the spokesperson said. “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.” The spokesperson went on to describe what happened as “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist.”
Given the assault citation for Gianforte, authorities don’t appear to be convinced by this account, which ignificantly differed from the ones given by Jacobs and Acuna.
This incident took place just hours before polls were to open for Montana’s special election for U.S. Representative. Gianforte is running against Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks. The winner will take the spot of Republican Ryan Zinke, who was recently confirmed as Secretary of the Interior.
[Image via Fox news screengrab]