From The New York Times — Written by Jonathan Martin — Image courtesy of Getty
The Republican candidate in a hotly contested special House election in Montana was charged with assaulting a journalist on Wednesday at what was to be a final rally in Bozeman on the eve of the vote. The attack brought police officers to the event and sent the reporter to the hospital for X-rays.
In a statement late Wednesday, the office of the Gallatin County sheriff, Brian Gootkin, said there was enough evidence to charge the candidate, Greg Gianforte, with misdemeanor assault. Mr. Gianforte, the Republican candidate for the state’s lone House seat, is scheduled to appear in court before June 7.
Three of the state’s largest newspapers, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian and The Helena Independent Record, quickly rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte. But prospects that the altercation could tip the race to the Democrat, Rob Quist, were complicated by Montana’s early-voting tradition: Over half the estimated total ballots in the contest had been returned by Wednesday.
Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, said the episode occurred during an interview at Mr. Gianforte’s campaign headquarters. Mr. Jacobs said Mr. Gianforte “body-slammed” him when pressed on a question about the Republicans’ health care bill.
Members of a Fox News television crew witnessed the encounter, and in a firsthand account posted on the network’s website, one of the Fox journalists described Mr. Gianforte as “punching the reporter.”
An article in The Week posits that this altercation may make Gianforte more appealing to some voters in Montana.
As “nuts” as it was, it’s anyone’s guess how the altercation between Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte and Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs will affect Thursday’s special election in Montana, University of Montana political science professor Robert Saldin said Wednesday night.
Several voters have already cast their ballots, Saldin told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and some anti-media Republicans might be sympathetic to Gianforte, who has used strong rhetoric against journalists in previous campaign speeches.
A trio of Fox News employees is backing up journalist Ben Jacobs’ account of what happened Wednesday evening between him and Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana’s vacant U.S. House seat.
Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna was in the room when the altercation took place, along with field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey. In a firsthand account posted to the Fox News website, Acuna wrote that Jacobs, whose name she didn’t know at the time, walked into the room with a voice recorder and “put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking him if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.”
Then, Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” Acuna wrote. She said the Fox News crew “watched in disbelief” as Gianforte then “began punching the man, as he moved on top of the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'” Acuna said “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”