Montana GOP candidate accused of assaulting reporter on eve of special election

A reporter is alleging that a candidate in the special House election in Montana body slammed him Wednesday night, breaking the reporter's glasses.

Ben Jacobs, a political reporter for The Guardian U.S., tweeted shortly after 7 p.m. that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in the special election, body slammed Jacobs and broke his glasses.
 

Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses

— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
  
Reporters on the scene also tweeted out their accounts of what they witnessed, saying they heard shouting before Gianforte allegedly assaulted Jacobs.

Ben walked into a room where a local tv crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte

— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) May 24, 2017
 

All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben's feet fly in the air as he hit the floor

— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) May 24, 2017
 

Heard very angry yelling (as did all the volunteers in the room) - sounded like Gianforte

— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) May 24, 2017
 

Quist responds (sort of) pic.twitter.com/cvnfAm0NyE

— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 24, 2017
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Gianforte is running against Democrat Rob Quist to fill the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke when he became head of the Interior Department. The reporter's claim comes a day before the election. 
 
Jacobs has been covering the race and last month wrote about Gianforte having financial ties to U.S.-sanctioned Russia companies.
 
A spokesman for Gianforte said in a statement that Jacobs "entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face and began asking badgering questions."
 
"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," the statement said.
 
Audio of the interaction, however, appears to contradict the spokesman's statement.
 
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin held a press conference late Wednesday night about the incident, though he said he couldn't provide much context about the investigation since it is still "active."
 
"The main reason why we're having this press conference right now, I need to ask you, all of the media and the public, to stop calling our dispatch center," Gootkin said. "They're being inundated with phone calls from the public and from you folks and that is absolutely impeding their business. ... I ask that everyone out there stops calling 911."
 
Gootkin told reporters in Montana that deputies briefly interviewed Gianforte, Jacobs and several witnesses following the incident, which occurred at 5 p.m. local time.
 
The sheriff said Jacobs has been released from the hospital and is currently at their offices. When asked if the alleged victim would be filing charges, Gootkin responded, "The victim is being interviewed as we speak."
 
When asked if Gianforte had declined to talk to the sheriff, Gootkin said his office hadn't spoken with the Montana congressional candidate except when they were at the scene. Once Jacobs and the witnesses are done being interviewed, Gootkin said he will try to interview Gianforte but noted that he has the right to decline.  
 
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also issued a statement Wednesday night, calling for Gianforte to "immediately withdraw" his candidacy in the race.