Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte accused of 'body slamming' reporter

Greg Gianforte, the Republican nominee in the race for Montana's lone House seat in Thursday's special election, roughed up and shouted at a Guardian U.S. reporter, according to audio of the incident.

Ben Jacobs, a political reporter at Guardian U.S., was at a campaign event in Bozeman, Montana when the incident occurred. On a recording posted Wednesday night by Guardian U.S., Jacobs can be heard asking Gianforte a question about the Congressional Budget Office's score of the American Health Care Act. Then, there's a muffled crunch, followed by Gianforte's voice shouting "I am sick and tired of you guys!"

Alexis Levinson, who was covering the event for BuzzFeed News, witnessed the altercation through a partially closed door and tweeted details from the incident:

https://twitter.com/alexis_levinson/status/867523402696937472

https://twitter.com/alexis_levinson/status/867523624810541056

https://twitter.com/alexis_levinson/status/867523796969959424

In a statement, Gianforte said that Jacobs "grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground."

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

Gianforte did not ask Jacobs to lower his phone, according to The Guardian's audio of the incident. Fox News reporters who witnessed the event said Gianforte "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him." On Wednesday night, The Gallatin County Sheriff’s office said it had probable cause to charge Greg Gianforte with misdemeanor assault.

Gianforte is the frontrunner in the special election for Montana's House seat, which was left vacant by the appointment of former Rep. Ryan Zinke to Secretary of the Interior. The campaign has been unusually tight for Montana, a reliably right-leaning state that has been roiled in recent weeks by a public debate over which candidate best embodies the state's values. Gianforte's chief opponent, Democratic folk singer Rob Quist, has chipped away at Gianforte's lead in the polls as the campaign draws to a close.

In April, Jacobs wrote a story that described Gianforte's $250,000 investment in two index funds that are connected to Russian companies Gazprom and Rosneft, which have fallen under U.S. sanctions of Russia in the wake of that country's annexation of Crimea.

Gianforte left the event without speaking to reporters, according to Levinson‏.

In a brief gaggle with reporters, Quist said that the incident is "a matter for law enforcement."

In an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Jacobs said the incident was the "strangest moment in my entire life reporting."

https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/867537231157891072

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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