Greg Gianforte, the Republican House candidate running in Montana’s special election, body slammed Ben Jacobs, a political reporter for The Guardian, after Jacobs entered a room where a FOX News crew was setting up for an interview.
It’s unclear what effect this will have on the election, which is today. 7 of 10 Montana voters have already voted absentee.
Listen to the incident:
The FOX News reporter Alicia Acuna, wrote a firsthand account of the incident:
Faith, Keith and I arrived early to set up for the interview in a room adjacent to another room where a volunteer BBQ was to take place. As the time for the interview neared, Gianforte came into the room. We exchanged pleasantries and made small talk about restaurants and Bozeman.
During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if 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.
At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of “I’m sick and tired of this!”
Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. He then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.
The FOX crew says they saw no aggression from Jacobs during the incident. More at the link.
Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
Gianforte's statement: pic.twitter.com/WVNdA1yZ8w
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 25, 2017
The Gallatin County sheriff’s office is investigating.
A statement by campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon blamed Jacobs for the altercation, saying that he “entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions”.
“Jacobs was asked to leave,” the statement reads. “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.”
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?”