As if politics weren’t already weird enough this year, a GOP candidate for U.S. Congress just body slammed a reporter to the ground.
Greg Gianforte was campaigning for Montana’s House seat (recently vacated by interior secretary Ryan Zinke) on Wednesday night (the night before the election), when he was asked a question by The Guardian‘s political reporter, Ben Jacobs.
Instead of answering Jacobs’ question like someone running for public office would, Gianforte decided to knock the reporter to the floor and shout “Get the hell out of here.”
Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said from the back of an ambulance. “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
Shane Scanlon, a spokesperson for Gianforte, said Jacobs had interrupted another reporter’s interview and begun aggressively shoving a recorder in Gianforte’s face.
“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face,” the campaign claimed in a statement. “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.”
But the journalists Scanlon claims Jacobs interrupted — journalists from Fox News, no less — remember things decidedly differently:
“[He] 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,” Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna said. “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.”
Acuna clarified that Jacobs never showed any signs of aggression toward Gianforte.
The local sheriff’s office released a statement shortly before midnight saying that Gianforte will be charged with a misdemeanor assault, but the injuries sustained did not qualify the crime as a felony.
Gianforte — who was the frontrunner in today’s election — will now appear in Gallatin County court at some point before June 7.
The sheriff in charge of the investigation donated $250 to Gianforte’s campaign earlier this year, though he said that would not influence his police work.
It is unknown whether or not Gianforte will be charged with fleeing the scene of the crime — since he was driven away shortly after the incident, skipping a planned speech to his supporters.
Jacobs and Gianforte do have a bit of a history, since last month Jacobs unveiled that the canndidate owns $250,000 in shares of funds directly tied to Russia.
Gianforte’s opponent, Rob Quist, is likely feeling a bit better about his odds. Especially since several local newspapers rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte.
But while most of us would like to think that a blatant act of assault would assuredly cost someone an election, Donald Trump became president after the entire world listened to him brag about grabbing unwilling “pussies.”
Either way, people reporting on Gianforte might want to stick to phone interviews.