Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte assaults a reporter – May 2017

Missoula, MT

Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for a special election to fill the at-large U.S. House of Representatives seat for Montana, assaulted a reporter for The Guardian named Ben Jacobs on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The assault occurred two days before the election results were finalized. Gianforte won the seat and apologized to Jacobs in his acceptance speech. Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to 20 hours of anger management sessions and community service, along with a $385 fine.

Key Players

Greg Gianforte is the current representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district. He amassed wealth working as a tech entrepreneur prior to running for public office. On the evening before the voting took place, Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, was questioning Gianforte on the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate attacked him. According to Alicia Acuna, a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.” In an audio recording of the incident, Gianforte yells, “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” and “Get the hell out of here,” after assaulting Jacobs. Gianforte won the special election with 49.9% of the vote, CNN reports. At his victory rally, he apologized to Jacobs, saying, “I should not have responded the way I did, for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.” The crowd responded, “You’re forgiven,” CNN reports. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.

Ben Jacobs is a reporter for The Guardian. Immediately after the incident, Jacobs tweeted, “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Brian Gootkin is the Gallatin County sheriff in charge of the investigation into the incident. He said in a statement, “Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County sheriff’s office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault … The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.”

Further Details

The special election was being held to replace Ryan Zinke, who had been appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Trump. CNN reports that early voting played a large role in Gianforte’s victory in the election, so that many votes had already been cast before the incident.

The New York Times reported that Jacobs went to the hospital for x-rays. The article also reported that Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that Gianforte should apologize and that the incident “should not have happened.” But Ryan also said that he would not block Gianforte from taking office.

Three newspapers in Montana, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian, and The Independent Record all rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte after the incident.

Shane Scanlon, who was a press contact for Gianforte at the time and witnessed the incident, released a statement on behalf of Gianforte immediately afterwards, saying that Jacobs had “entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions … Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground,” as reported by Fox News. The campaign blamed the incident on Jacobs’ “aggressive behavior.”

Outcome

Gianforte Wins Election, Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Assault

Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after he “body-slammed” reporter Ben Jacobs. He was sentenced to community service, 20 hours of anger management sessions, and had to pay a $385 fine. Gianforte won the special election that was held a day after the incident, and he took office soon thereafter.

External References

“Greg Gianforte: Fox News team witnesses GOP House candidate ‘body slam’ reporter,” Fox News

“Republican Greg Gianforte wins Montana special election, CNN projects,” CNN

Ben Jacobs on Twitter

“Republican candidate charged with assault after ‘body-slamming’ Guardian reporter,” The Guardian

“Who is Greg Gianforte?” CNNPolitics

“GOP candidate charged after allegedly ‘body slamming’ reporter,” CNN

“Greg Gianforte sentenced to community service for assaulting Guardian reporter,” The Guardian

“Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, Charged With Assault, Awaits Fate in Vote,” The New York Times

Gianforte Campaign Statement

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 20, 2017