The Republican nominee for Montana's U.S. House seat was charged with misdemeanor assault last night (May 24th) for attacking a reporter on the eve of today's special election. Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin announced the charges against Greg Gianforte shortly before midnight, some six hours after the attack on The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The charge carries a maximum of a $500 fine or six months in jail. Gianforte was in an office readying for a Fox News interview when Jacobs came in and asked the candidate about the Republicans' health care bill, which had just been evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. After Gianforte said he'd talk about it later and Jacobs repeated the question, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck and threw him to the ground, according to the stunned Fox News crew that was in the room. Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna said that Gianforte then began to punch Jacobs while he was on the ground. Jacobs' captured the incident in an audio recording, on which a crashing sound can be heard as he starts to ask his question again, and Gianforte yells, "The last guy who came here did the same thing." A shaken-sounded Jacobs tells Gianforte he just body-slammed him and broke his glasses. Before the announcement of the assault charge, Gianforte's campaign had released a statement blaming the incident on Jacobs, saying he, quote, "aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face and began asking badgering questions," and claiming Gianforte tried to grab the phone and Jacobs then grabbed Gianforte's wrist and they both fell to the ground.
- It's unclear how much the incident will affect the election today between Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist, since a large percentage of voters have already cast their ballots through early voting. Quist declined to comment on the incident. The two are running to fill the seat vacated when President Trump chose former Rep. Ryan Zinke to be his Secretary of the Interior.
CHECK IT OUT: Jacobs' audio of the incident: