Republican Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday after reports and supporting audio of Gianforte “body slamming” Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian who asked a question about the Republican health care agenda. Polls in the special election closed last night, but Republican criticism was swift and three of Montana’s most circulated newspapers rescinded their endorsements of the candidate. On Twitter, Republican Senator Steve Daines, who currently represents Montana, wrote, “I do know Greg Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault and will leave the questions and answers to local law enforcement. I do not condone violence in any way.” Republican Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, who also has some relationship with Gianforte, was more tempered in his analysis: “We need to let the facts surrounding this incident unfold. Today’s special election is bigger than any one person; it’s about the views of all Montanans.”
Gianforte was running in the special election for Ryan Zinke’s seat in Congress. Zinke left the seat after being appointed as the Secretary of the Interior by President Donald Trump in March. Gianforte has yet to release a public apology on the incident. The incident happened at a final campaign rally in Bozeman, Montana, where Gianforte’s campaign headquarters are located. According to Gianforte’s spokesman Steve Scanlon, Jacobs “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face and began asking badgering questions. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.” However, in the audio since released of the incident, Gianforte is not heard to tell Jacobs to lower the recorder. Furthermore, a Fox News reporter confirmed Jacobs’ story that it was not just both getting “pushed” to the ground, but rather Gianforte throwing Jacobs to the ground and striking the reporter.