Montana governor: Gianforte lying about reporter fight

Montana governor: Gianforte lying about reporter fight
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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) on Thursday accused the GOP nominee in the state's House special election of lying about a physical altercation with a journalist that ended in an assault charge against the candidate.

Bullock blasted the Republican, Greg GianforteGregory Richard GianforteHammond pardons raise fears of emboldened anti-government extremists Top Montana Democrat seeking ethics investigation into GOP rep over assault on reporter Freshman lawmakers introduce congressional term limits proposal MORE, while calling on all Americans to "restore civility in politics and governing."

"It is unsettling on many levels that Greg Gianforte physically assaulted a journalist and then lied, refusing to take responsibility for his actions," Bullock, who defeated Gianforte in his 2016 reelection bid, said in a statement.

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"One thing is clear: no matter what happens today, the actions of Gianforte do not reflect the values of Montana or its people," Bullock added.

The shocking altercation late Wednesday afternoon, which occurred on the eve of Election Day, has roiled the race.

After news of the altercation began to spread, Gianforte's campaign released a statement that claimed that Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian U.S., “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face” and grabbed the candidate’s wrist, pushing him to the ground.

But a Fox News reporter who witnessed the altercation with two Fox colleagues backed up The Guardian reporter's account of the incident, saying that Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him to the ground,” adding that The Guardian reporter did not “show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte” before the candidate grabbed him.

Audio of the incident has blanketed cable news as Montanans head to the ballot box, and Democrats have purchased social media ads in the state to push the audio out to potential voters. In it, Gianforte can be heard yelling at Jacobs in response to a question about healthcare before the clash.

Gianfote was charged with misdemeanor assault.