Businessman Greg Gianforte, who is the Republican candidate in Thursday’s special election for Montana’s congressional seat, has been accused of assault by a journalist. Deputies have launched an investigation. (more)
The incident happened at about 5 p.m. MT on Wednesday when Ben Jacobs, a political reporter for the U.S. edition of The Guardian, tried to ask a question about health care during a campaign event in Bozeman. A local TV crew was in the room and captured audio of the alleged assault.
“I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last time you came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!,” Gianforte was heard saying in the recording, seconds after he allegedly body-slammed Jacobs, who asked about the CBO’s analysis of the Republican health care bill.
Deputies responded to the scene and have launched an investigation into the alleged assault. An ambulance also responded to the scene and Jacobs was checked out by paramedics, after which he was taken to an area hospital to have his elbow examined.
About an hour later, Gianforte denied any wrongdoing in a statement issued by his campaign.
“As Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave,” said Shane Scanion, a spokesman for the campaign.
Scanion added: “After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. 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. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”
Alexis Levinson, a reporter for BuzzFeed News, said she witnessed parts of the incident.
“Ben walked into a room where a local tv crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte. All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben’s feet fly in the air as he hit the floor,” she said on Twitter. “Heard very angry yelling (as did all the volunteers in the room) – sounded like Gianforte.”
Deputies took statements from witnesses but Gianforte was not immediately taken into custody. The businessman and his aides left the campaign event at 5:45 p.m. MT, about 45 minutes after the incident, even though the event was not supposed to end for another hour.
“The investigation is ongoing,” the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Gianforte is the Republican Party’s candidate in Thursday’s special election to replace Ryan Zinke, who resigned on March 1 to become President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. Gianforte faces Democrat Rob Quist.
Responding to the incident, Guardian U.S. Editor Lee Glendinning said the publication stands by Jacobs. “The Guardian is deeply appalled by how our reporter, Ben Jacobs, was treated in the course of doing his job as a journalist while reporting on the Montana special election,” he said.
Glendinning added: “We are committed to holding power to account and we stand by Ben and our team of reporters for the questions they ask and the reporting that is produced.”
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