On Wednesday evening, audio was released of what appeared to depict a confrontation between a U.S. congressional candidate and a reporter, who had just asked the candidate a question about the American Health Care Act. "You just body slammed me and broke my glasses," the reporter can be heard saying after sounds of a scuffle in the audio recording. The candidate, Greg Gianforte, has released a statement blaming the reporter for the incident for "badgering" him with questions.
The statement, released by a spokesperson for Gianforte, claimed that Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs shoved a phone in Gianforte's face and grabbed the candidate's arm. However, there is no mention of the alleged "body-slam." Instead, the spokesperson claimed they were both pushed to the floor.
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, pushing 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 is the Republican candidate running to fill a vacant House seat in Montana left by Ryan Zinke, who was appointed to serve in President Trump's Cabinet. The special election will take place on Thursday, and though the state is traditionally a GOP stronghold, polling numbers show a tight race between Gianforte and Democratic candidate Rob Quist.
Gianforte was hosting a campaign event in Gallatin County when Jacobs alleges the candidate "body-slammed" him to the ground. Police arrived at the scene shortly after, and an ambulance reportedly treated Jacobs for his injuries, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Various witnesses report seeing an altercation between the two men.
"I'm not sure I've seen anything like this before,” BuzzFeed reporter Alexis Levinson tweeted. "This happened behind a half-closed door, so I didn't see it all, but here's what it looked like from the outside. Ben walked into a room where a local TV crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte. All of a sudden, I heard a giant crash and saw Ben's feet fly in the air as he hit the floor.”
The Gallatin County Sherriff's Office is investigating the incident, and will hold a press conference at 10:00 p.m. EST.