Ben Jacobs, a political reporter for The Guardian, asked Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte about the CBO score and Republican healthcare plan questions, as can be heard in the below audio. After that, a large scuffle can be heard, with Jacobs calling out "Jesus," and accusing Gianforte of body-slamming Ben to the ground and breaking Jacobs' glasses.
As reported by The Guardian, Gianforte is a technology millionaire. Ben said that Gianforte took him down to ground, as Jacobs spoke via phone to The Guardian from an ambulance. Jacobs contacted the police about the incident, which is being investigated.
"He took me to the ground. This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics."Gianforte's campaign spokesperson, Shane Scanlon, focused the blame on Ben, claiming that Jacobs was aggressive and asked badgering questions. Although the statement from Scanlon claims Ben was asked to leave, what's heard on the audio below shows a different story.
Greg Gianforte's Statement Calls Jacobs A "Liberal" ReporterIn a statement put out by Gianforte's camp, Ben was called a "liberal" journalist and blamed for the melee.
"Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. 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. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."However, The Guardian notes that the audio does not seemingly agree with what Scanlon claims happened as Ben attempted to interview Gianforte. Instead of Gianforte answering the questions about healthcare, Gianforte can be heard telling Jacobs he was sick and tired "of you guys," and asking Jacobs if he was with The Guardian.
There is no audio above of Gianforte asking Ben to put down his recorder. What can be heard is a big scuffle and Gianforte screaming at Jacobs.
"The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?"Ben answered that he was indeed a journalist with The Guardian, and claimed that Gianforte body-slammed him and that Jacobs wanted to contact the police.
"Yes! You just broke my glasses."Jacobs also could be heard asking others nearby their names, like a reporter attempting to get witness statements. In the top photo above, Gianforte can be seen in Missoula, Montana. Gianforte was on the campaign trail, stopping at Lambros Real Estate for a meet-and-greet on Wednesday, May 24, the same day the audio above went viral.
Gianforte will face a special election on May 25, attempting to gain Montana's single congressional seat. Rob Quist is going up against Gianforte in the tight race. However, with the above video going viral, providing the audio of Gianforte's alleged treatment of Ben, there's no telling how the viral video will have an effect on the race.Meanwhile, Twitter came alive with buzz about the viral audio.
Some of the comments from listeners of the audio via social media can be read below.
"The GOP, everyone."[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
"Bye bye career."
"Absolutely disgusting...press charges...that's your GOP."
"This is Trumpism in action. These people think it's okay to assault and arrest reporters for exercising their 1st amendment rights. As much as I dislike Hillary Clinton she was right, these people are deplorable."
"He needs to be arrested."
"LOCK HIM UP."
"Probably not the sound bite you want to have on the eve of your election."