A reporter for the left-wing newspaper The Guardian alleged Wednesday that he was body-slammed and had his glasses broken by a Republican congressional candidate fighting for an open House seat in Montana.
The alleged incident occurred Wednesday evening when Ben Jacobs — a politics reporter for the U.K.-based outlet — asked Greg Gianforte, who is running for the open House seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, about the Congressional Budget Office score on the Republican health care plan.
According to an audio recording of the incident, which took place at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, Jacobs is cut off by Gianforte, who tells him: “We’ll talk to you about that later.” When Jacobs follows up, saying there may not be time later, Gianforte tells him to “talk to Shane,” apparently referring to campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon.
When Jacobs attempts to ask another question, there is a loud crashing sound on the recording, followed by Gianforte yelling: “I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last guy who came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here.”
“The last guy did the same thing. You with the Guardian?” Gianforte says.
“Yes,” an apparently stunned Jacobs replies. “And you just broke my glasses. You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”
“Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte repeats.
Jacobs then says he wants to call the police and requests the names of other people in the room.
Jacobs quickly reported about the incident on Twitter, and his editor backed him up in a statement.
Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
“The Guardian is deeply appalled by how our reporter, Ben Jacobs, was treated in the course of doing his job as a journalist while reporting on the Montana special election,” Guardian U.S. editor Lee Glendinning said. “We are committed to holding power to account and we stand by Ben Jacobs and our team of reporters for the questions they ask and the reporting that is produced.”
“This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics,” Jacobs told his paper from the back of an ambulance.
Gianforte’s campaign challenged Jacobs’ account of the incident, with Scanlon saying in a statement that Gianforte merely tried to grab the phone “that was pushed in his face.”
The campaign said that Jacobs entered the office without permission and “aggressively shoved” a recorder in the candidate’s face. The statement says Jacobs was asked to leave and to lower the recorder (neither of which is heard on the recording).
“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,” the statement said.
Gianforte's statement: pic.twitter.com/WVNdA1yZ8w
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 25, 2017
“It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist caused this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ,” the statement said.
However, Jacobs’ account was supported by the audio, as well as Fox News’s Alicia Acuna, who was in the room when the incident occurred. Acuna reported that “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.” Acuna added that “at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte…”
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office said it was investigating allegations of an assault involving Gianforte.
Gallatin County Sheriff’s office says it's investigating an assault report against Gianforte: pic.twitter.com/VhY7AZRJMu
— Ben Mullin (@BenMullin) May 25, 2017
Polls for the House race shows Gianforte beating Democratic candidate Rob Quist, but some Republican strategists have reportedly said that the race is “closer than it should be.”
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Breitbart News based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY