Montana GOP House Candidate Charged With Assault After Body Slamming Reporter

The Republican candidate in today's Special Election in Montana has been charged with assaulting a reporter.

Greg Gianforte

It was just yesterday morning that I wrote about today’s Special Election in Montana to fill the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke when he became Secretary of the Interior. By late in the day and overnight, that race was turned upside down when the Republican candidate Greg Giancorte was charged with assault after he physically assaulted a reporter trying to ask him a question about the CBO score of the American Health Care Act, which was released late yesterday:

MISSOULA, Mont. — The Republican candidate in a hotly contested special House election in Montana was charged with assaulting a journalist on Wednesday at what was to be a final rally in Bozeman on the eve of the vote. The attack brought police officers to the event and sent the reporter to the hospital for X-rays.

In a statement late Wednesday, the office of the Gallatin County sheriff, Brian Gootkin, said there was enough evidence to charge the candidate, Greg Gianforte, with misdemeanor assault. Mr. Gianforte, the Republican candidate for the state’s lone House seat, is scheduled to appear in court before June 7.

It was an extraordinary development in a race that was already being closely watched for clues about the national political environment in the tumultuous first months of the Trump presidency.

Three of the state’s largest newspapers, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian and The Helena Independent Record, quickly rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte. But prospects that the altercation could tip the race to the Democrat, Rob Quist, were complicated by Montana’s early-voting tradition: Over half the estimated total ballots in the contest had been returned by Wednesday.

Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, said the episode occurred during an interview at Mr. Gianforte’s campaign headquarters. Mr. Jacobs said Mr. Gianforte “body-slammed” him when pressed on a question about the Republicans’ health care bill.

Members of a Fox News television crew witnessed the encounter, and in a firsthand account posted on the network’s website, one of the Fox journalists described Mr. Gianforte as “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!'” according to the Fox News account.

Mr. Jacobs said Mr. Gianforte became agitated when asked about the Congressional Budget Office’s new fiscal assessment of the legislation that House Republicans have passed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Gianforte initially sidestepped the question, according to an audio recording of the episode Mr. Jacobs posted, suggesting the reporter speak with his spokesman. But when Mr. Jacobs persisted, the candidate lost his composure.

“I’m sick and tired of you guys!” Mr. Gianforte can be heard saying on the recording shortly after the sounds of a physical struggle and a crash. “The last time you came here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here.”

Mr. Jacobs responded: “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.”

“Get the hell out of here,” Mr. Gianforte said again. Mr. Jacobs said he would report the episode to the authorities and asked for the names of the other individuals in the room. Then the tape ends.

In a statement, Mr. Gianforte’s spokesman offered a strikingly different version of events.

“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined,” said Shane Scanlon, Mr. Gianforte’s spokesman. “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.”

Mr. Gianforte is not heard on the recording requesting that Mr. Jacobs lower the recorder.


If convicted, Mr. Gianforte faces up to a $500 fine, or six months in jail, or both.

Three hours to the west, in Missoula, Mr. Quist, the Democratic nominee for the seat, which was vacated by Ryan Zinke when he became the Interior Department secretary, seemed taken by surprise when he was asked about the episode.

“That’s really not for me to talk about; I think that’s more a matter for law enforcement,” Mr. Quist said.

But the House Democratic campaign arm quickly seized on the episode, calling on Mr. Gianforte to “immediately withdraw” from the race.

The newspapers were swift in withdrawing their endorsements of the Republican candidate, with The Missoulian saying that Mr. Gianforte “should lose the confidence of all Montanans.”

The Billings Gazette’s editorial board released a blistering statement. The board’s members said they were “at a loss for words.”

“We will not stand by that kind of violence, period,” The Gazette said.

Mr. Gianforte ran for governor in Montana last year, his first bid for office after amassing a fortune as a technology executive.

Earlier Wednesday, after a rally in Helena, he spoke briefly with a reporter in between greeting supporters. He immediately turned to his spokesman when approached, but he did respond to a question about the role of President Trump in the race.

While Montana is a Republican-leaning state and Mr. Gianforte has been enjoying an advantage in private polling here, the campaign of Mr. Quist, a banjo-strumming folk singer, has caught fire with national progressive activists. He raised over $6 million despite receiving little help from Democrats in Washington.

Here’s the audio recording of the incident, which largely corroborates Mr. Jacobs’ written version of what happened:

Additionally, the incident was witnessed by Buzzfeed reporter Alexis Levinson:

You can read the full chain of tweets in which Levinson describes what she saw by clicking on this link.

And, by a Fox News crew that was preparing to interview Gianforte and in the room when the alleged assault occurred:

Faith, Keith and I arrived early to set up for the interview in a room adjacent to another room where a volunteer BBQ was to take place. As the time for the interview neared, Gianforte came into the room. We exchanged pleasantries and made small talk about restaurants and Bozeman.

During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.

At that point, 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!”

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.

Here’s an interview with the Fox News reporter describing what she saw:

Based on all of the available evidence, including the Jacobs written account, the recording, and the accounts of the four witnesses to the event, this clearly seems like a clear cut case of assault and battery. Even if you accept the argument of the campaign that Jacobs ‘barged’ into the room and began asking Gianforte questions while holding out his recorder, that does not justify what Giancorte did when he shoved Jacobs to the ground, punched him, and at some point appeared to even be attempting to choke him by putting his hands around his neck. Indeed, based on the recording and the contemporaneous accounts from the witnesses it would appear that the initial statement from the Giancorte campaign was nothing but a complete and total lie that tried to make Jacobs out to be the aggressor when it was, in fact, Gianforte who had initiated the use of force in this situation. Because of all of this, it was entirely appropriate that the local Sheriff, who is apparently a Republican himself who had donated to Gianforte’s campaign in the past, chose to file charges against the candidate after Jacobs swore out at a complaint against him.

The immediate question, of course, is what impact this incident will have on the outcome of today’s election. As I noted yesterday, the polling in this race has been limited but what little has been done has been much closer than would ordinarily be expected in a state like Montana. The most recent poll, from Google, even showed Democrat Rob Quist leading Gianforte by fourteen points, but it’s unclear how reliable that poll is or what impact this incident will actually have on the race. Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that this incident may have no real impact at all on the outcome of the race. Montana is a state where many voters either vote by mail or via absentee ballot and according to some reports, there was a heavy early vote in this Special Election, with somewhere between 50% and 65% of likely voters having already voted. This suggests that it may not matter what impact these charges have on the outcome of the race if Gianforte already has a big advantage in the early vote. On the other hand, this assault could cause people who may have stayed home for this election to get out and vote thanks to the overwhelmingly negative coverage Gianforte has gotten from this incident. Additionally, the presence of a Libertarian Party candidate who has polled between 5% and 11% in the race could end up working to the advantage of the Democratic candidate if people who were inclined to vote for Gianforte decide to register their distaste for what he did but can’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat. All that being said, there’s a good possibility that Gianforte could still win this election.

The possibility that Gianforte could win the election has led many early commenters to suggest that the House of Representatives should refuse to seat him, however, it’s not at all clear that they have the power to do so. Under Article I, Section Five, Clause 1 of the Constitution, the House and the Senate are given the right to be the sole authority to judge the qualifications of their members, meaning that they could reject a candidate if they deemed him unqualified. However, in Powell v. McCormack 395 U.S. 486 (1969) the Supreme Court ruled that Congressional authority to exclude members is limited to the confines of whether that prospective member is in compliance with the qualifications of members clause as set forth in Article I, Section Two, Clause Two which requires that members be at least 25 years old, that they have been a citizen of the United States for at least seven years, and that they have been an inhabitant of the state in which their district is located. There is nothing in the clause that says that a person who is charged with, or even convicted of, a crime prior to taking office is unqualified for the position and nothing that gives the House (or the Senate) the authority to bar someone who was duly elected if they are otherwise meet the criteria of the Qualifications Clause. Given that, it would appear that Congress has no real authority to bar Gianforte from being seated should he win today.

Even though this incident is less than twenty-four hours old, there’s already been plenty of commentary about it, all of it overwhelmingly negative. As many pundits have pointed out, this incident occurs in the context of a recently concluded Presidential election in which the Republican candidate and eventual winner spent the better part of his campaign openly attacking the press, and even individual reporters. At his rallies, he would encourage his supporters to verbally abuse the press pool that was covering him and falsely accuse them of not even airing speeches that were being aired live on every cable news channel at the time. On more than one occasion, individual reporters in the press pool had to be escorted out of the building by a member of Trump’s Secret Service detail or local law enforcement due to concerns for their safety. Since taking office, Trump and his Administration has repeatedly attacked the news media for truthfully reporting what they label as “Fake News” and used the Press Secretary to mock the media for simply doing their job. Is it a surprise that, under this kind of guidance, candidates for office are now assaulting members of the media for asking a question about an important piece of legislation? Of course it’s not. This, my friends, is Donald Trump’s America.

FILED UNDER: 2017 Election, Congress, Environment, Policing, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jen says:

    If he wins, he should resign. Immediately.

    This is untenable behavior for an elected official.

  2. gVOR08 says:


    This is untenable behavior for an elected official.

    Wanna bet? He’s a 21st century Republican. And sure is touchy about the AHCA CBO score.

  3. Pete S says:

    Assaulting a reporter and telling bold-faced lies should endear him to the Republican base….

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Let’s get real, the Republicans in the House would welcome him with open arms and high fives for beating up a member of the lieberal press, and Trump would tweet “Hit him again!”

  5. teve tory says:

    He shoulda done this a year ago. He’d be Veep now.

  6. James Pearce says:

    Based on all of the available evidence, conservatives and Republican voters are not too concerned about beating up reporters.

  7. CSK says:

    This seems like such an over-the-top reaction to being questioned by a reporter that I wonder if it was calculated. Did Gianforte do this because he thought it would win him kudos from the Trumpkins? Which, by the way, it did, to some extent.

  8. ElizaJane says:

    The commenters above are entirely correct: on websites like TownHall and the Daily Caller, reader response is overwhelmingly in favor of Gianforte. Most comments are to the effect of “this should happen more often” and “if I could punch a reporter, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

  9. Tony W says:

    Unfortunately, I predict this incident will only help the GOP win tonight due to increased voter turnout from previously disengaged R voters. There will be two schools of thought at work: 1) The mean and unfair mainstream media is picking on us – we’re the real victims here. 2) The GOP are the real tough guys, not wimps like the D’s.

  10. Pch101 says:

    Bob Dornan got into an altercation on the House floor in 1985. He kept winning elections after that; the only thing that got him out of power was a demographic shift that made his district Democratic.

    I would expect most Republicans to either rally behind Giancorte or else not care enough to change their votes. The question is whether there are enough independents and Democrats to change the outcome, not whether Republicans will change their votes.

  11. teve tory says:


    The commenters above are entirely correct: on websites like TownHall and the Daily Caller, reader response is overwhelmingly in favor of Gianforte. Most comments are to the effect of “this should happen more often” and “if I could punch a reporter, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

    Maybe this’ll become a thing, where future GOPers have to prove their non-RINO status by at least shoving a reporter.

  12. CSK says:

    @teve tory:

    Bonus points for manhandling a 110 lb. girl reporter.

  13. Jen says:

    This thread is reflecting a reality that is very depressing. Accurate, but depressing.

  14. teve tory says:


    “Welcome back to the 2020 election. We thought that Tom Cotton had the GOP nomination sewn up when he slapped the free lunch out of a poor child’s hands at that elementary school rally, didn’t we Chris?”
    “We sure did, Andrea, but this morning Paul Ryan kicked the crutches out from under an elderly black lady, so now it’s anybody’s race.”

  15. al-Alameda says:


    If he wins, he should resign. Immediately.
    This is untenable behavior for an elected official.

    I guarantee you that the folks who voted for Trump feel that the (Liberal Media) reporter had it coming, and that what Gianforte did was not only appropriate, but also very restrained considering the assault by the reporter.

    He probably increased his standing among Republican voters.

  16. reid says:

    There were witnesses to this, which makes Gianforte’s campaign spin look especially ridiculous. A big man would admit his mistake and apologize for losing control. A small, pathetic man gets his campaign staff to make up an obvious lie and blame someone else.

  17. Hal_10000 says:


    Comment boards at places like the Daily Caller have become an alt-right cesspool. I’m talking to a lot of conservatives who are appalled.

  18. teve tory says:

    Laura IngrahamVerified account @IngrahamAngle
    Politicians always need to keep their cool. But what would most Montana men do if “body slammed” for no reason by another man?

    Clearly the reporter was a sissy beta cuck.


  19. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Jen: Well at least we’re not back to the days where (particularly if Jacobs had been black) the sheriff would have arrested Jacobs for “inciting that poor man to violence” with his relentless rudeness intruding on a private moment.

  20. Mr. Bluster says:

    Montana, Big Guy Country!
    Where the men are men and the sheep are nervous!

  21. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Whoa, everyone…
    The story here is the atrocity that is Trumpcare.
    It’s a fraud on the level of Trump University. They say a bunch of really nice words…but those words mean nothing. 23 million thrown off insurance. Insurance for the elderly going up 700-800%. No protection for pre-existing conditions.
    I mean…I love Gianforte’s fwck up here, and that it’s very likely to turn a red seat blue.
    But let’s not get distracted by the shiny object. Ginaforte reacted the way he did because of the CBO report, which makes crystal clear that the Republican health care bill is a fraud; it does not do what they claim it does, and more people will go into poverty and die because of it. That’s the story.

  22. Pch101 says:


    Daily Caller was founded by Tucker Carlson. It never had a golden age.

    It’s nice that some Republicans will pay some lip service against this sort of behavior. But if they keep voting for Republicans anyway, then it doesn’t mean a thing and won’t make a damn bit of difference.

  23. drj says:


    I’m talking to a lot of conservatives who are appalled.

    But they will still vote Republican.

    So it’s all rather meaningless, isn’t it?

  24. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Watch Dumb Don push aside NATO Leaders so he can be in front of them…so fwcking funny, and so fwcking SAD!!!

  25. Moosebreath says:


    “I’m talking to a lot of conservatives who are appalled.”

    Not their elected representatives. Digby has a sampling of reactions, including:

    ““Of course not. It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”
    — Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), quoted by the AP, when asked if assaulting a reporter is appropriate behavior.”

  26. SenyorDave says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Somebody pointed out that you should look at the guy in background with the lanyard. He sees what Trump does and he has a “what a fwcking moron” look on his face. And no doubt all the other leaders will get to see this replayed over and over. The US is now becoming an international joke.

    Meanwhile, Obama is in Germany receiving a rock star welcome. He met with Merkel, who must be thinking what the fwck did the world do to deserve Trump.

  27. Hal_10000 says:


    But they will still vote Republican.

    So it’s all rather meaningless, isn’t it?

    So if a Democrat does something similar, are you going to start voting Republican?

  28. Modulo Myself says:

    The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Steve Stivers, said: “From what I know of Greg Gianforte, this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes.

    The GOP is the party of serial abusers. It’s Trump, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly choking his wife. In two years we’re going to have a conservative with a head in his freezer, but only ONE, so nbd.

    Gianforte also thinks Social Security is worthless because Noah lived to be 600 without retiring, and almost certainly wishes to kidnap drifters and hunt them.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    Now that the Progressive side of the country has become activated and angry, it is something to see how upset and hurt the Republicans get when someone really starts challenging them. A lot of these precious little snowflakes got elected during the tea party era when descending en mass on a Town Hall Meeting and screaming that your local Rep was a liar was the norm. Not to mention decades of abuse by the Republican media (Limbaugh, Fox News) who spring from one phony outrage to another, making up stories and then spreading them via Republican talking points. (If yo think I’m exaggerating about the talking points, next time there is an attack by the Republican governance/media machine, take a look at how many of them use the exact same language and phrasing.)

    But now these Republican reps truly seem stunned that anyone is employing their tactics against them. Priceless.

  30. MarkedMan says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: my god that is ugly. This is the leader of the Republican Party: an angry red faced bully pushing aside a smaller man and strutting around afterwards.

  31. Pch101 says:

    Anthony Weiner is a Democrat. Did the party run to support him when his scandal gained traction? No.

    Kim Davis was a Democrat. Did the party defend her when she refused to do her job? No. She switched parties and became a Republican.

    David Duke was a Democrat. Did the party have his back as he extolled the virtues of white supremacy? No. He switched parties and became a Republican.

    No comparison. Both parties don’t do it.

  32. drj says:


    So if a Democrat does something similar, are you going to start voting Republican?

    If Congressional Democrats:

    1) kept supporting a president who is happy to sell out his country;
    2) think there should be no consequences if one of their candidates beats up a reporter;

    …then yeah, I sure would.

    Because I don’t buy into that whole party before country thing.

    Face it: as a group, modern-day conservatives are about as morally bankrupt as they come.

  33. Modulo Myself says:


    Weiner was a private sleaze. He wasn’t running on a platform of self-destructive exhibitionism.

    This racist freak has ties to white power groups. Of course he’s into beating up reporters. The GOP is filled with this type of person. This is the essence of their platform.

  34. Pch101 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You are correct. But guys like Hal will never figure it out; they simply refuse to see what is hiding in plain sight.

    And I’m not a Democrat. I have morphed from being a liberal-leaning pro-business independent into a staunch anti-Republican. I vote for Democrats because they have the best odds of defeating Republicans, not because I am enamored with the Democratic platform. At least Dems don’t go out of their way to be repulsive.

  35. David M says:


    So if a Democrat does something similar, are you going to start voting Republican?

    That’s a pretty severe misreading of the current political climate. Democrats have already shown they won’t do something similar. They face much tougher media coverage than the GOP does. The GOP has an entire ecosystem of state media organs on the right that push their message no matter what. The rest of the media is biased towards scandal and sensationalism, which the GOP are able to better exploit. So to sum up, we already know this isn’t a problem on the left, and your hypothetical is ridiculous.

  36. Hal_10000 says:


    Bill Clinton was accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault; did commit perjury and the party not only stood by him but threw mud at his accusers (and STILL do). They stood by Ted Kennedy as he groped women and as his womanizing got a woman killed. And they stood by Weiner initially until his lies came apart. Alcee Hastings was impeached for bribery and perjury and they’re happy to have him serve in Congress for 25 years. They were silent on John Edwards unethical behavior until it blew up. I’m old enough to remember the House Banking and Post Office scandals. And when it comes to the press, the Obama Admin pretended James Rosen was a criminal so they could surveil him. And jailed whistlelblowers. That’s just off the top of my head.

    Don’t give me that “both sides don’t do it” sanctimonious garbage. Just because you’re blind to your side’s sins does not mean those sins do not exist. GOP might be worse at this particular moment. But the awful truth of politics is that the parties will always tolerate bad behavior when it comes from “their” guys.

  37. Pch101 says:


    A lot of us believe that the claims against Clinton were bogus.

    He had a consensual relationship with Lewinsky. I suppose that you won’t see the difference.

  38. Hal_10000 says:


    Thank you for proving the point.

  39. Hal_10000 says:

    Back to the Gianforte thing, the Trumpaloos are apparently trying to discredit Acuna’s account of the event by cherry-picking some of her language to claim she’s “changed her story”. For the record, she hasn’t. And even if she had, the audio tape still exists.

    This is a cult.

  40. Pch101 says:


    You proved your commitment to false equivalencies without any help from me.

  41. David M says:

    There’s a pretty big difference between being a dirtbag personally and and being a dirtbag in one’s capacity as an elected official.

    Both parties have people who are ethically challenged in their personal lives, but it’s not really relevant to anything, and really, why should I care?

    This behavior by Gianforte crossed the line into his duties as a public servant, and should be treated not as a personal failing.

    Regarding Chappaquidick, I’m pretty sure voting for the AHCA is morally worse for a public official than what Kennedy was accused of.

  42. DrDaveT says:

    @David M:

    Regarding Chappaquidick, I’m pretty sure voting for the AHCA is morally worse for a public official than what Kennedy was accused of.

    This. The AHCA would be, literally, mass murder. Thousands if not tens of thousands of people. Two things I don’t understand are (1) how Republicans can live with themselves, and (2) why Democrats don’t explain these things to the voters in terms people can understand.

  43. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Pch101: Of course you do–claims against the home team are always bogus.

  44. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @David M: Thats a personal value filter. Are you saying one applied that is different–is wrong? What’s you’ve done is rationalize your own partisan filter while seeking to invalidate someone else’s that doesn’t mesh with yours.

    I happen to prioritize personal ethics as a prerequisite to vote for anyone. If time uncovers scandals of personal failings–the elected official should resign, and be censured by their OWN party.

  45. Grewgills says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    I happen to prioritize personal ethics as a prerequisite to vote for anyone.

    Do you vote?

  46. David M says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Not sure how it’s partisan to point out that causing thousands of deaths and suffering for even more is bad.

  47. MBunge says:

    And it looks like Gianforte is going to win.

    I am curious about where all this concern over violence was when it came to that dork Milo and the Antifas/punch a Nazi business recently. Democrats and liberals didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory by standing up and repudiating that garbage.


  48. CSK says:

    Gianforte won, 50.2 to 44.1.