Ryan: GOP House candidate should apologize for altercation with reporter

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday condemned GOP House special election candidate Greg Gianforte for allegedly assaulting a reporter, but did not call on Gianforte to drop out of the race.

“There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or just between human beings. So that is wrong and that should not have happened,” Ryan told reporters in what were his first remarks on the incident.

“I think he should apologize,” he added. “I know he has his own version and I’m sure he’s going to have more to say, but there is no call for this under any circumstance. ... I do not think this is acceptable behavior.”

But Ryan did not call for Gianforte to drop out of Thursday’s Montana special election, saying the state’s voters will decide who their next congressman is. And the Speaker deflected a question about whether House Republicans would accept Gianforte as a member of the GOP conference if the Montana software executive wins his race.

“I’m going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative,” Ryan said. “That’s not our choice; that’s the people of Montana who choose that.”

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Montana law enforcement officials on Wednesday charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault following an alleged physical altercation with a reporter Wednesday evening, just hours before voters head to the polls.

Gianforte allegedly slammed Ben Jacobs to the floor at the candidate’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman as the Guardian reporter posed questions about the Republicans’ ObamaCare repeal plan — a charge Gianforte denies.

Gianforte is facing Democrat Rob Quist in Thursday’s special election to replace former GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who left the House to become President Trump’s Interior secretary. 

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) called the incident “totally out of character” for Gianforte, but added “we all make mistakes.”

“We need to let the facts surrounding this incident unfold,” Stivers added.

“Today’s special election is bigger than any one person; it’s about the views of all Montanans. They deserve to have their voices heard in Washington.”

- Updated at 12:08 p.m.