When I first heard the news about Montana’s Republican candidate for U.S. House, Greg Gianforte, assaulting U.K. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in his campaign office, I was willing to entertain the notion that the story was too wild to be true.
Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
A Republican in Montana, leading in the polls over a Democratic folk singer with an old pot arrest, physically attacks a reporter the night before the special election? Come on—that’s just begging for folks to shout, “Fake news!”
Faith, Keith and I arrived early to set up for the interview in a room adjacent to another room where a volunteer BBQ was to take place. As the time for the interview neared, Gianforte came into the room. We exchanged pleasantries and made small talk about restaurants and Bozeman.
During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.
At that point, 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. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”
Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.
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 [Alicia Acuna, “Greg Gianforte: Fox News Team Witnesses GOP House Candidate ‘Body Slam’ Reporter,” Fox News, 2017.05.24].
Immediately after the incident hit the press, Gianforte’s campaign issued a statement claiming that Jacobs “began asking badgering questions“:
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, pushed 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 campaign, statement, as reported in Aria Bendix, “A Montana Candidate Is Cited for Assaulting a Reporter on the Eve of Election Day,” Politico, 2017.05.25].
Unless Fox News is part of the Marxist fake news conspiracy against America, Gianforte is lying.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has charged Gianforte for misdemeanor assault. The Billings Gazette, the Helena Independent Record, and the Missoulian have all rescinded their endorsements of conservative millionaire Gianforte, who last month made a sinister joke about reining in the media with mob violence.
On the eve of his election, Gianforte has demonstrated a disregard for law, contempt for the free press, an inability to manage the stress of what should have been an easy campaign, and an unfitness for office, all in one inexcusable outburst of violence.