Montana newspapers pull support for GOP candidate after alleged assault

Newspapers in Montana are pulling their support from GOP House candidate Greg Gianforte following an alleged physical altercation Wednesday with a reporter.

Three newspapers have rescinded their support for Gianforte, who was charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly slamming a reporter from The Guardian to the floor at the candidate's campaign headquarters in Bozeman.

The incident allegedly occurred as reporter Ben Jacobs posed questions about the Republicans' ObamaCare repeal plans — a charge that Gianforte denies.

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The papers pulling their support include the Missoulian, the Billings Gazette and the Independent Record.

Gianforte earlier Wednesday had touted the support he had from the three papers.

The Missoulian in a later editorial said Gianforte showed Wednesday night that he "lacks the experience, brains and abilities to effectively represent Montana in any elected office."

The Billings Gazette said it is "at a loss for words" and said it doesn't believe someone can "love America, love the Constitution, talk about the importance of a free press and then pummel a reporter."

The Independent Record expressed similar comments, saying it can't "condone that kind of violence" and noting democracy can't "exist without a free press."

The altercation Wednesday came just hours before polls opened.

After a brief investigation, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin issued a statement Wednesday night saying Gianforte had been cited for misdemeanor assault.

“Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault,” the statement reads. “The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.”

Thursday’s special election pits Gianforte against Democrat Rob Quist in a contest to replace former GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who is now heading President Trump’s Interior Department. Gianforte is seen as a slight favorite in the race.