A political reporter for the Guardian US who was allegedly assaulted by the Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte said Thursday that he was recovering after Gianforte body slammed him and broke his glasses.
Montana officials charged Gianforte with a misdemeanor assault Wednesday evening, after Jacobs and other witnesses said Gianforte body-slammed Jacobs as he asked the candidate about a new Congressional Budget Office report on the Republican health care bill.
“He seemed to just snap,” Jacobs said on Good Morning America. “Having asked a number of politicians a number of questions about policy I’ve never had that reaction to a question about health care reform before.”
Jacobs said he wanted to finish covering the election before considering any further action. Gianforte is running against Democrat Rob Quist to fill the one at-large congressional seat in Montana vacated by Ryan Zinke, who left to join the Trump Administration as Secretary of the Interior. Voters were heading to the polls Thursday, but many have already cast their ballots early. Three newspapers in the state retracted their endorsement of him following the alleged assault.
The campaign arm of House Democrats launched a late digital advertising campaign against Gianforte spotlighting the altercation. Republican leaders commented Thursday mostly said they were deferring to law enforcement on the matter.
Audio posted online by the Guardian depicts Gianforte yelling at Jacobs: “Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. You with the Guardian?”
“Yes, and you just broke my glasses,” Jacobs responds.
“Your last guy did the same damn thing,” Gianforte says.
Jacobs subsequently tells the candidate he has just body slammed him, to which Gianforte responds, “get the hell out of here.”
Gianforte’s campaign released a statement Thursday evening saying the candidate was giving a separate interview when Jacobs entered the room without permission and “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face.” The statement said Jacobs was asked to lower the recorder and declined, but no such exchange is heard on the audio.
“It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ,” Gianforte’s spokesperson said.
Jacobs told Good Morning America that the campaign’s statement is wrong, and that Gianforte was on top of him attacking him. Alicia Acuna, the Fox News reporter who was conducting the interview with Gianforte, bolstered Jacobs’ account in her own witness account posted online, saying Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.”
If convicted, Gianforte could face as much as six months in jail and a $500 fine. He is scheduled to appear in court before June 7.