A Republican congressional candidate has been charged after an astonishing audio clip emerged in which he allegedly body-slams a Guardian journalist.
In the clip, Ben Jacobs, a US reporter for the publication, could be heard questioning Greg Gianforte on the recently released Congressional Budget Office report on the Republican health care replacement bill.
There then follows a series of crashing sounds and the GOP candidate in the Montana special election can be heard saying: “I’m sick and tired of you guys.
“The last guy who came in here did the same thing.
“Get the hell out of here.”
He then asked if Jacobs worked for the Guardian, to which Jacobs replied that he does and added: “You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”
Jacobs ended up being taken away by an ambulance.
He told the Guardian: “I think he wailed on me once or twice... He got on me and I think he hit me.
He added: “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
Guardian US editor Lee Glendinning said in a statement: “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.”
Fox News journalists were also in the room at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters when the incident took place and corroborated Jacobs’ story.
Reporter Alicia Acuna wrote on the Fox News website: “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.”
She said the three-member team “watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’”
Acuna added: “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”
She said the Fox crew had given statements to investigators.
Buzzfeed reporter Alexis Levinson also partially confirmed the story, saying she heard shouting from the adjacent room before Jacobs walked out holding broken glasses and saying he had been body-slammed by Gianforte.
Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault and ordered to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court. He faces a maximum of six months in a jail and a $500 fine.
Explaining why Gianforte had been handed a more serious charge, Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the incident “did not meet the Montana statutory elements for felony assault.”
Gootkin has previously donated to Gianforte’s campaign but he insisted the contribution of $250 “had nothing to do with our investigation, which is now complete”.
The incident prompted some to express fears about mistreatment of the media...
The election, to determine Montana’s US House representative, takes place on Thursday.