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Greg Gianforte, a GOP Congressional Candidate, “Body-Slammed” a Reporter Last Night

Today, Montana’s voters will go to the polls in a special election to determine who will fill a U.S. House of Representative seat that was left absent when the incumbent congressman, Republican Ryan Zinke, was named Donald Trump’s secretary of the interior. The two major candidates, Democrat Rob Quist and Republican Greg Gianforte, fought a tough campaign, with polls indicating a tight competition that would likely swing in Gianforte’s favor by a small margin. All he had to do was sit back, give a final speech or two, and not do anything egregious–like, say, going straight-up WWE and putting the smackdown on a newspaper reporter who asked him about healthcare.

But Gianforte just couldn’t manage. At an event last night–hours before the election began–Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs approached Gianforte to ask his thoughts about the Congressional Budget Office’s just-released report about the healthcare bill that was passed by House Republicans. “We’ll talk to you about that later,” Gianforte answered. Jacobs pressed on. “Speak with Shane, please,” Gianforte said. And then, on an audio recording published by the Guardian, all you hear is a loud crash. “I’m sick and tired of you guys!” Gianforte shouts. “The last time you came here, you did the same thing!”

According to a tweet by Jacobs, the crash you hear is the sound of Gianforte body-slamming him.

Other reporters on the scene corroborate Jacobs’ version of events.

Alicia Acuna, a Fox News reporter, wrote:

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!”

Gianforte’s campaign released a statement placing the blame for the incident on Jacobs. As reporters have noted, it contains one easily identifiable lie–as can be heard on the audio recording, Gianforte never asked Jacobs to lower his recorder.

Gianforte was later cited on charges of misdemeanor assault. Several newspapers have retracted their endorsements of his candidacy. However, according to one GOP congressman, Gianforte will nonetheless be welcomed by his colleagues in the party if he still manages to win.

Right now, things are looking pretty good for Rob Quist. But you should never underestimate the capacity of American voters to put violent buffoons into office, even if they know full well what they’re getting into from the outset.