UPDATE: Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault. He is set to appear in court before June 7.
Eye witness accounts and audio are coming out of Bozeman ahead of Montana’s special election to fill their sole House of Representative seat tomorrow. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was “body slammed” to the ground and punched according to reporters from Fox News:
Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”
Gianforte’s campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon painted a different picture. Jacobs “aggressively” put a recorder in Gianforte’s face. “Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face,” Scanlon said. “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.”
The aftermath of the incident has Jacobs accusing Gianforte of “body slamming” him into the floor and breaking his glasses. While so far witnesses have only corroborated Jacob’s version of events the Gallatin County Sheriff’s office is still investigating. According to Sheriff Brian Gootkin there are four witnesses to what occurred (according to campaign finance reporting Gootkin donated $250 to Gianforte’s campaign in March).
The Washington Post is reporting that it’s unclear how this will affect the race with 200,000 of 700,000 ballots already being cast by absentee voters.
We’ll be following this story into tomorrow.