Montana GOP candidate Greg Gianforte accused of assault


PUBLISHED Wed, May 24, 2017 - 7:19pm EDT


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)

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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 Fox News 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.

Deputies took statements from witnesses but Gianforte was not 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.

About an hour after the incident, 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."

Later on Wednesday night, Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna said she and her colleagues had witnessed the incident, describing a scene that seemed to support the reporter's allegation.

Acuna said she and her colleagues were speaking with Gianforte ahead of a scheduled interview when Jacobs walked into the room and put a voice recorder to the candidate's face as he tried to ask about the Republican health care law. Gianforte declined to answer and referred Jacobs to his spokesman.

"At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," Acuna said. "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!'"

Acuna added: "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 News reporter added that neither she nor her colleagues saw Jacobs display any form of physical aggression towards Gianforte.

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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  Bozeman, MT     

 

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