Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Republican candidate 'body-slams' Guardian reporter in Montana

Audio obtained of Greg Gianforte attacking a reporter on the eve of a special election to fill a congressional seat vacated by a member of the Trump administration

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The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting, “Get the hell out of here.”
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.
“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
Jacobs subsequently reported the incident to the police. Gianforte’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Audio of the abortive interview recorded by Jacobs captures the altercation, and appears to reference previous questioning from another Guardian reporter. “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” Gianforte said. “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?”
“Yes! You just broke my glasses,” Jacobs replied.
“The last guy did the same damn thing,” Gianforte said.
“You just body slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacob said.
“Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte yelled.
The altercation took place at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana. Gianforte was in a side room with a local television news crew when Jacobs attempted to ask his question, according to Jacobs.
“I decided there was no harm in asking one question, and the worst thing that could happen was they would tell me to go to hell,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs’s account was partially confirmed by BuzzFeed News reporter Alexis Levinson, who wrote on Twitter that she had been in an adjacent room during the incident.
“This happened behind a half closed door, so I didn’t see it all, but here’s what it looked like from the outside – Ben walked into a room where a local tv crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte. All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben’s feet fly in the air as he hit the floor. Heard very angry yelling (as did all the volunteers in the room) – sounded like Gianforte...”
Levinson later tweeted Gianforte left the event without speaking and that the Gallatin County Sheriffs department was taking witness statements.
Gallatin County sheriff Brian Gootkin confirmed to the Guardian that his department was “currently investigating” the incident and declined to comment further.
The special election has attracted national attention, and spending has reached $17m as the race has tightened. Democrat Rob Quist is a political novice and folksinger. Quist declined to comment on the altercation when approached by reporters on Wednesday.
Gianforte is a tech mogul who mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2016.
On 28 April, Jacobs reported on Gianforte’s financial ties to Russian companies that have been sanctioned by the US. Gianforte’s wealth is estimated at between $65m and $315m.

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