The GOP candidate in a closely watched special election for Montana’s House seat has been charged with assaulting a reporter Wednesday at a campaign rally. The New York Times reports that Greg Gianforte was charged in what has been described as a “body slam” of Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian.
“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,” The Times reports. “Mr. Gianforte, the Republican candidate for the state’s lone House seat, is scheduled to appear in court before June 7.”
The race has been closely watched as a gauge of the country’s political temperature in the early days of the Trump presidency.
“Three of the state’s largest newspapers, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian and The Helena Independent Record, quickly rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte,” The Times notes. “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.”
A TV crew from Fox News witnessed the incident, as we reported previously. The alleged assault can be heard on an audiotape that can be heard in the CNN report posted below, in which Gianforte appears to become enraged as Jacobs questions him about GOP health care legislation.
Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna posted a firsthand account of the incident, writing: “At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith [Mangan], Keith [Railey] and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”