On Wednesday night, GOP candidate Greg Gianforte (in a race for a U.S. Congress seat in Montana) was accused by The Guardian‘s Ben Jacobs of body slamming him and breaking his glasses. Audio footage soon revealed what was unmistakably a scuffle, which prompted wrestling jokes. And Gianforte’s campaign released a statement that accused Jacobs of “aggressive behavior,” including grabbing Gianforte’s wrist. By the end of the evening, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault against Jacobs.
It’s not entirely clear why Gianforte flew into a rage (although our own president shows contempt for the press on the regular), but Jacobs did publish a late-April story about Gianforte’s investment in U.S.-sanctioned Russian entities. Reports also indicated that Jacobs had inquired about the American Health Care Act’s abysmal new CBO score before sh*t hit the pavement.
The AHCA questioning was confirmed by a Fox News crew, who witnessed the situation and claim that the altercation was more brutal than previously indicated. Not only were Jacobs’ glasses apparently crushed, but reporter Alicia Acuna says she and the crew saw Gianforte grab Jacobs’ neck before the body slamming, which was followed by thrown punches. Acuna also shut down claims that Jacob was the physical aggressor:
[Ben Jacobs] walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if him 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 man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of “I’m sick and tired of this!” … To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”
While some Republicans have either remained silent on the matter or — in the case of Rand Paul strategist Doug Stafford — have called Jacobs’ claims “horse sh*t,” the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department immediately launched an investigation. For a few hours, confusion abounded while Sheriff Brian Gootkin spent several press conference minutes shutting down most questions after stating, “I will not be answering any questions about the incident at all.” However, he did state that charges weren’t filed at the scene “because we didn’t have all the information at the time.”
Shortly after midnight, however, the department determined that there was sufficient evidence to level the charge (a misdemeanor since Jacobs’ injuries didn’t amount to a felony-level offense) upon Gianforte. Should he be convicted, he could face up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. In all likelihood, he’s also said goodbye to his political career.