Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, who is running for Montana’s congressional seat, has been accused of body-slamming Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, at Gianforte's campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, on May 24 (video below).
Jacobs recorded audio of the incident, in which he asked Gianforte about the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) report on the Republican health care bill, which is estimated to cost 23 million Americans their health coverage.
On the audio, Gianforte told Jacobs to speak to his campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon, and then there was the sound of a physical altercation.
Gianforte then shouted: "I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. Are you with The Guardian?"
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"Yes, and you just broke my glasses," Jacobs replied.
Jacobs later posted a picture of his broken glasses from inside an ambulance.
"The last guy did the same d*** thing!" Gianforte shouted.
"You just body-slammed me, and broke my glasses," Jacobs said.
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"Get the hell out of here!" Gianforte replied.
An unidentified voice told Jacobs that he has to leave.
Montana's special election is on May 25.
Speaking from inside the ambulance, Jacobs told The Guardian: "He took me to the ground. This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics."
Jacobs reported the incident to authorities; Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin told The Guardian that his department was "currently investigating."
In a statement, Scanlon blamed Jacobs for his "aggressive behavior" with Gianforte:
[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.
Jacobs said that Gianforte was in a side room with a local TV crew when Jacobs tried to question Gianforte.
"I decided there was no harm in asking one question, and the worst thing that could happen was they would tell me to go to hell," Jacobs recalled.
Alexis Levinson, a reporter for BuzzFeed News, was in a nearby room and tweeted her account of the incident:
This happened behind a half closed door, so I didn’t see it all, but here’s what it looked like from the outside --
Ben walked into a room where a local tv crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte.
All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben’s feet fly in the air as he hit the floor. Heard very angry yelling (as did all the volunteers in the room) -- sounded like Gianforte.
I can't quite remember the order but the next few things were someone slamming the door, Gianforte's Spox walking into the room.
Levinson told The Guardian that she overheard Gianforte’s staff telling Jacobs how the campaign did not like The Guardian’s reporting and that Gianforte would probably not talk to him; Jacobs entered the side room to interview Gianforte.
Levinson described the crash heard on the audio: "Everyone in the room heard it. Everyone in the room went silent. Ben walked out holding his glasses that were visibly broken and said, 'He just body-slammed me.'"
Jacobs reported on April 28 that Gianforte had financial relationships with Russian companies, which had been sanctioned by the U.S. government.