Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, a fervent Trump supporter and media hater, has been charged with assault for body-slamming a reporter Wednesday afternoon.
Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office it was determined there was probable cause to charge Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault (MCA 45-5-201). The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.
On the eve of the election, Gianforte received a citation on Wednesday night and is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7, 2017.
According to audio posted by Ben Jacobs, a political reporter with The Guardian, he was attempting to ask Gianforte a question, ahead of a campaign event in Bozeman, about the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the Republican health care bill, which showed that 23 million more people would be uninsured in 2026 if the bill were enacted.
In the recording, Jacobs can be heard asking Gianforte about the CBO score. Gianforte says he doesn’t have time and directs Jacobs to talk to his spokesman, then there is a scuffle and a crash.
“I’m sick and tired of you guys!” Gianforte can be heard yelling. “The last guy did the same damn thing. Get the hell out of here.”
Gianforte’s campaign spokesman claimed in a statement that Jacobs interrupted an interview “without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions.”
That account from the campaign, however, appears to be contradicted by three Fox News journalists who had been in the room setting up for an interview with Gianforte:
At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. The crowd 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!”
Listen to the audio recording posted to Youtube:
The incident comes less than 24 hours before voters in Montana were set to head to the polls in a race that is seen as a potential bellwether for the 2018 congressional midterm elections.
The race between Gianforte and Democratic nominee Rob Quist had already tightened in a state that President Trump won by 20 points last November. It’s unclear what effect the altercation might have on the contest, but at least one-third of voters have likely already cast their ballots early. The contest is to replace former GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who Trump named his Interior secretary earlier this year.