The night before Montana's special House election turned to chaos with allegations that GOP candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter at his Bozeman, Montana headquarters Wednesday night. Following tweets from its political reporter, Ben Jacobs, describing the alleged incident, The Guardian shared the audio of the confrontation between Gianforte and Jacobs, who claimed Gianforte allegedly "body-slammed" him and broke his glasses after supposedly refusing to answer a question about the Republican healthcare bill.
In a statement from Gianforte's campaign, spokesman Shane Scanlon said Jacobs was at fault for the confrontation after he “entered the office without permission" and "aggressively shoved a recorder in [Gianforte's] face, and began asking badgering questions”. Per the statement:
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.
The audio was captured by local news crew who Jacobs' said was also in the room. The recording, which is less than a minute long, does feature a series of loud crashes and the resulting argument in which you can hear Gianforte saying "I'm sick and tired of you guys."
In a statement to The Guardian, its U.S. editor Lee Glendinning also responded to the incident:
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. 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.
As previously reported, following the confrontation, after being asked to leave by Gianforte's aides, Jacobs contacted the local police and was transported via ambulance to a local hospital.
Prior to Wednesday night's events, Gianforte, a tech millionaire and Montana businessman, was still the favorite to fill the House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who was named Donald Trump's Secretary of the Interior. As noted in the recording, Gianforte has taken issue with previous reports from The Guardian. The paper specifically noted reports published in late April saying he has financial ties with Russian companies sanctioned by the U.S.
Gianforte's opponent is Democrat Rob Quist, a first-time candidate, a banjo-playing folk singer, and comes with Bernie Sanders' endorsement.
As the Gallatin County sheriff’s office is now investigating Wednesday night's events, the available audio from the incident could definitely still have an effect on the special election on Thursday.