A few hours after the incident, authorities cited Gianforte with assault:
The sheriff, a campaign donor of Gianforte, released this late-night statement:
Jacobs made the dramatic allegation on May 24 on his Twitter page. Gianforte’s campaign pushed back quickly, calling Jacobs a liberal journalist, and accusing the reporter of being aggressive and causing the incident by allegedly grabbing Gianforte’s wrist. However, a Fox News reporter wrote that she and two others saw the incident and “at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”
Audio has since been released:
The audio captures what sounds like an altercation, and then a male voice saying after Jacobs asks about healthcare, “I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last (unintelligible) that came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing, you with the Guardian?”
“Yes, and you just broke my glasses,” says Jacobs.
“The last guy did the same da*n thing.”
“You just body slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacobs says, saying he’s going to call the police.
“Get the hell out of here.”
Gianforte is the Republican Party’s nominee for the House in the 2017 special election in Montana. The allegations emerged the day before the special election. The race is said to be closer than expected and is being watched as a bellwether on President Donald Trump’s performance as president and on GOP opposition to Obamacare, as a pro-Trump candidate tries to hang onto a Republican seat vacated by new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
However, Gianforte was still favored in a state that went overwhelmingly for Trump. Country singer Rob Quist is the Democrat in the race. The Republican released a statement:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jacobs Made a Complaint With Police & Called the Incident ‘the Strangest Thing’ That Ever Happened to Him as a Reporter
Jacobs made the claim on Twitter, writing, “There was a local TV crew there when Gianforte body slammed me. Audio is posting soon at @GuardianUS.”
The Guardian then wrote a story on the incident that says, “Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire running for the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly ‘body-slammed’ the reporter.”
The news site quoted Jacobs, who was commenting from the back of an ambulance, as saying, “He took me to the ground. This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
A Montana reporter tweeted that Jacobs was in an ambulance getting checked out.
It was then reported that Jacobs was at the hospital getting an X-ray.
The Gianforte campaign statement alleged that Jacobs “entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face and began asking badgering questions.”
Jacobs declined a request to lower his recorder, the statement alleges. “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.”
The statement blames “this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist” for creating the scene at a campaign volunteer barbecue.
Gianforte, 56, is a businessman, with a net worth estimated in the millions of dollars. He co-founded RightNow Technologies and unsuccessfully ran for Montana governor.
Police scanner audio following the incident shows a call was placed to authorities that says: “(Jacobs) says he is a reporter and asked about his health care plan and Gianforte body slammed him.” The recording also alleges that Gianforte “kicked” Jacobs after slamming him to the ground.
You can listen here:
2. A Fox News Reporter Wrote That She Saw Gianforte Grab Jacobs ‘by the Neck’ & Slam Him Into the Ground
Jacobs has support for his claims from others in the media who were present.
Alicia Acuna, a Fox News reporter, has posted a firsthand account on the incident. She reported that she, field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey were present as Jacobs “walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if him 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.”
Acuna continued, “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 man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”
She wrote that “Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken… 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.”
Alexis Levinson, a reporter with Buzzfeed, wrote on Twitter, “All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben’s feet fly in the air as he hit the floor.”
She added, “Ben walked into a room where a local tv crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte.” Levinson also wrote, “Heard very angry yelling (as did all the volunteers in the room) – sounded like Gianforte.”
Other tweets from Levinson:
“Ben walked out holding his broken glasses in his hand and said ‘he just bodyslammed me.'”
“I can’t quite remember the order but the next few things were someone slamming the door, Gianforte’s Spox walking into the room.”
Authorities weren’t saying much right after the incident, writing, “The Gallatin County Sheriffs Office is currently investigating allegations of an assault involving Greg Gianforte. We will provide a press release with more information when appropriate. The investigation is ongoing.”
The police press conference on the reporter’s claims was then streamed via a live video here. The Sheriff said in the press conference that authorities interviewed “Mr. Gianforte very briefly” at the scene and wanted to speak with him more in depth. Asked if Jacobs was filing charges, the sheriff, Brian Gootkin, responded only that Jacobs was out of the hospital being interviewed by investigators, a process that could take several hours.
The Sheriff said there was an “active investigation as we speak.” He said that authorities were trying to talk to all the parties to get an overview of what happened.
“There were allegations that an assault occurred,” he said, adding that the audio recording was “retrieved from the alleged victim.” He said he had not listened to the entire audio and added that there were five witnesses overall, including Gianforte and Jacobs.
It turned out that the sheriff has donated money to Gianforte’s campaign.
During the press conference, Gootkin said the case would be handled like any other.
3. Jacobs Is a Former Reporter With the Daily Beast Based in Washington
Although Jacobs is a political reporter for the Guardian, a British news site, he is based out of Washington D.C. and has written for other prominent American publications.
“Ben Jacobs is a political reporter for Guardian US based in Washington DC. He was previously a reporter for the Daily Beast,” his bio says.
His top story on his bio page is from May 21, and entitled, “More Bernie, less Trump: is this how Democrats will win Montana’s special election?” The story starts, “Rob Quist, the Democratic candidate in the special election in Montana, is passionate about public lands and protecting the Affordable Care Act. But when it comes to the Republican president whose national approval rating is under 40%, he doesn’t have anything to say.”
According to his LinkedIn page, Jacobs has reported for The Guardian since March 2015. Before that, he worked at Daily Beast for 1 year and 9 months.
The year before that he was a freelance reporter, “whose work has appeared in The New Republic, Salon, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Washington Monthly and Capital New York.” He was also a Newsweek reporter and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page, the LinkedIn page says.
He has a law degree from Duke University and a BA in history from Grinnell College. His page says he’s from the Baltimore, Maryland area.
4. Jacobs Recently Wrote a Story on Gianforte’s Alleged Financial Ties to ‘U.S.-Sanctioned Russian Companies’
Although the Jacobs-Gianforte incident sparked over a question about healthcare, Jacobs has done some hard-hitting stories recently on Gianforte and the Russians.
In April, he wrote a story for the Guardian that reported of Gianforte: “A Republican congressional candidate has financial ties to a number of Russian companies that have been sanctioned by the US.” You can read that story here.
Jacobs has been covering many different angles during the special election.
5. Jacobs Has Given Democrats Endorsements for Campaign Work in the Past & Said He Worked With Them
Although his listed experience doesn’t reflect it on LinkedIn, Jacobs has given endorsements to Democrats on LinkedIn for campaign work and indicated that he’d worked with them. An article from 2008 in the Nation indicates the work was likely when he was in college: “According to former Iowa College Democrats president Ben Jacobs, who has worked in electoral politics since graduating from Grinnell College in 2006, large numbers of college students are most important in the few days leading up to the election itself,” the article said at the time.
For example, in 2008, he wrote the following endorsement on the LinkedIn page of Kenneth Allison, who was a volunteer for the Iowa Democratic Party. The Post said Jacobs managed Allison directly.
Jacobs also wrote a ringing endorsement for Mark Langgin, who was an assistant to the Iowa Majority leader and a progressive organizer who has worked as a campaign manager and canvasser for the Iowa Democratic Party.
Jacobs also wrote an endorsement for another Democratic organizer, Chase Martyn:
The posts say he managed or worked with the men.
Theoretically, the Republican should fare well in a Montana election because Trump carried the state by 20 points. However, there were recent reports that Gianforte might face a battle to retain the seat for Republicans, with healthcare the key.
Even the conservative Washington Times noted, “Prognosticators say the race has moved from a likely Republican hold to a near toss-up, with Mr. Gianforte only slightly favored in a state President Trump won by 20 percentage points last year.”
According to the Times, Gianforte supported the GOP healthcare bill after The New York Times “unearthed an audio recording of him telling lobbyists the day the bill passed that ‘it sounds like we just passed a health care thing, which I am thankful for — that we are started to repeal and replace’ Obamacare.”