Republican candidate ‘bodyslams’ reporter
WASHINGTON — A Republican running for Congress in Montana “bodyslammed” a reporter for The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, breaking his glasses, the journalist said.
The altercation between Greg Gianforte and reporter Ben Jacobs took place at a campaign event at Gianforte’s headquarters in the city of Bozeman, Montana, The Guardian said.
He is running for the state’s only congressional seat in a special election set for Thursday.
“Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacobs tweeted.
The attack took place after Jacobs asked a question about health care.
Jacobs posted audio of the incident in which Gianforte appears to say “The last time you came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!”
Police said they are questioning four witnesses to the incident.
Others at the event corroborated the version of events.
“Ben walked into a room where a local TV crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte,” BuzzFeed reporter Alexis Levinson tweeted. “All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben’s feet fly in the air as he hit the floor.”
Gianforte’s campaign issued a statement saying the incident took place when the candidate 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,” the statement said.
“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 added.
“It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”
On Jacobs’s audio, businessman Gianforte is not heard asking him to lower his microphone.
When Jacobs asks for the names of those present, saying he would go to the police, he is told, “you gotta leave.”
The special election in the traditional Republican stronghold of Montana has proved to be a far closer race than expected.
It is seen as a key test of whether rural voters who helped send Donald Trump to the White House in November are sticking with him.
Jeremy Johnson, an associate professor of political science at Carroll College in the state capital Helena, earlier told AFP that the lead once enjoyed by Gianforte, who is running against Democrat Rob Quist, “has diminished in polling so much that it’s miniscule.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Gianforte to resign late on Wednesday, saying he is “unhinged.”
“Greg Gianforte must immediately withdraw his candidacy after his alleged violent assault of an innocent journalist,” spokesman Tyler Law said in a statement.
“Further, (House Speaker Paul) Ryan and the National Republican Campaign Committee should not waste another minute before publicly denouncing their candidate and apologizing for the millions of dollars they spent on his behalf.”
The Guardian’s US editor Lee Glendinning said the newspaper was “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.”
“We are committed to holding power to account and we stand by Ben and our team of reporters for the questions they ask and the reporting that is produced.” CBB/rga
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