Thursday, May 25, 2017

Favorite in today's Mont. election body-slams persistent reporter; most votes already cast

A candidate running in today's special election for the U.S. House in Montana was charged with assault for body-slamming a reporter on Wednesday night, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Greg Gianforte, a Republican who has been favored to win the election, was charged with a misdemeanor for the alleged assault on Ben Jacobs of The Guardian. Two of the state's largest newspapers, the Billings Gazette and The Missoulian, withdrew their endorsements for Gianforte. The impact on the election is uncertain; most ballots have already been cast in advance.

Shane Scanlon, spokesman for the Gianforte campaign, said of the confrontation, “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.”

The audio recording (below) paints a different picture, where Gianforte appears to be the aggressor, or at least the escalator. After Jacobs asks a question about the Republican health-care bill, and Gianforte tells him to wait, Jacobs asks the question again. Gianforte responds, “I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. You with the Guardian?”

Alicia Acuna of Fox News, who witnessed the incident, reported: “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him . . . I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’"

Acuna wrote, "To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies."

Democrats fear the incident will not only have little effect on the election, but might actually help Gianforte, David Weigel reports for The Washington Post. "Last month, a voter at a Gianforte town hall pointed out a reporter in the room; then, according to the Missoulian, the voter called the media 'the enemy' and mimed the act of wringing a neck." Gianforte commented, “It seems like there are more of us than there is of him."

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