GOP lawmaker on Mont. candidate: Violence 'not appropriate' unless reporter 'deserved it'

GOP lawmaker on Mont. candidate: Violence 'not appropriate' unless reporter 'deserved it'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said Thursday it’s not appropriate for a public official to attack a reporter physically, but he offered a caveat.

Hunter was asked by reporters in the Capitol what he thought of Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate for Montana’s House seat, allegedly body-slamming a reporter asking a question about the party’s healthcare bill the night before.

“It’s not appropriate behavior,” Hunter said, before adding, “Unless the reporter deserved it.”

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Hunter stressed that he didn’t know all the details of what happened: “I did not read the story. I just saw the headline.”

Montana law enforcement officials charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault following an alleged altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, less than 24 hours before polls close for the special election on Thursday.

Gianforte is running against Democrat Rob Quist for the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who left the House to serve in the Trump administration as Interior secretary. 

The Guardian posted an audio of the incident, in which Gianforte can be heard dismissing a question from Jacobs about the new Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House GOP's bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare. 

Gianforte can be heard referring Jacobs to his spokesman. Then, sounds of scuffling erupt.

“I’m sick and tired of you guys,” Gianforte yells. “The last guy who came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!”

Jacobs later called the police and went to the hospital for X-rays.

Gianforte's campaign offered a contradicting account that doesn't line up with what can be heard in the audio.

“Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. 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," Gianforte spokesman Shane Scanlon said in a statement.