Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for a House seat in Montana, was charged with misdemeanor assault after he attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs at an event in Bozeman Wednesday (May 24). Jacobs described the attack as a “body-slam.”
In an audio recording of the scuffle, Gianforte can be heard shouting “get the hell out of here” at Jacobs. Jacobs’ account of being physically assaulted was corroborated by several employees of Fox News, who attended a campaign BBQ held a day before the seat’s special election on May 25. The Fox News staff said that Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck… and slammed him into the ground” after Jacobs held a voice recorder to Gianforte’s face and asked a question about the White House health-care plan.
Gianforte’s press team responded in a statement that Jacobs, a “liberal journalist,” had “aggressively shoved” the recorder in Gianforte’s face in the first place and that Jacobs grabbed the politician’s wrist.
The Gallatin County sheriff’s office charged Gianforte with misdemeanor, and said he must appear in court by June 7.
Following the incident, a number of newspapers in the state pulled their endorsements of Gianforte, according to local media.
As the Missoulian newspaper wrote in April, Gianforte has a history of treating the media as the enemy, though he has apologized and pledged his support for the First Amendment. Jacobs wrote a piece in April alleging ties between Gianforte, a tech mogul, and Russian companies sanctioned by the US. President Donald Trump has urged voters to support Gianforte, after Ryan Zinke vacated the seat to become Trump’s interior secretary.
And for those who need a textbook definition of what exactly a body slam is, you aren’t alone:
Merriam-Webster defines it as “a wrestling throw in which the opponent’s body is lifted and brought down hard to the mat.” There is no clear definition, however, for what might constitute “aggressive” recording-shoving.