Politics

Gianforte Charged With Misdemeanor Assault on Reporter

Republican candidate for Montana's only U.S. House seat, Greg Gianforte, sits in a vehicle near a Discovery Drive building Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Bozeman, Mont. A reporter said Gianforte "body-slammed" him Wednesday, the day before the special election. (Freddy Monares/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for the Montana at-large House seat, has been charged with misdemeanor assault following a reported altercation between himself and a reporter on Wednesday evening, just hours before Montanans go to the polls.

Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs tweeted that Gianforte "body slammed" him during a campaign event, the Hill reports. The candidate's campaign has denied the claim, suggesting that the two became physical after Jacobs pressed their candidate inappropriately.

He received a citation and is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court by June 7, according to CNN. He will face a maximum sentence of six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

"Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses," wrote Jacobs on Twitter. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that law enforcement responded to the incident, and that Jacobs was being treated by medical services.

Jacobs subsequently released audio to the Guardian, which captured Jacobs attempting to ask Gianforte about the CBO score of the American Health Care Act that recently passed in the House.

In the audio, Gianforte yelled at Jacobs, telling him to "get the hell out of here" and saying he was "sick and tired of you guys."

Eyewitness accounts from several Fox News reporters supported Jacobs' account. According to the reporters, "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 reporter," said the Fox report. "As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I'm sick and tired of this!'"

Jacobs then left, while Gianforte "repeatedly apologized" to the others present.

A statement from Shane Scalon, a spokesperson for the Gianforte campaign, contested Jacobs' version of events.

"Tonight, 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 badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. 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," read the release.

"It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ," Scalon concluded.

After a brief investigation, the Gallatin County Sheriff's office issued a a statement on Wednesday evening stating that Gianforte had been cited for misdemeanor assault.

"Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault," read the statement. "The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault."

Gianforte goes to the polls against Democrat Rob Quist on Thursday in a special election to fill the seat previously held by Ryan Zinke, now Secretary of the Interior. When asked about the incident in an interview shortly after Jacobs' tweet, Quist declined to comment, saying it was the first he'd heard of the event.