GOP House special election candidate Greg Gianforte is canceling two scheduled election-day TV appearances on Thursday after being charged with assaulting a reporter.
Fox News and MSNBC both said Gianforte will no longer be appearing for planned interviews as Montana voters go to the polls. He was scheduled to appear on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” in the late afternoon.
Montana law enforcement officials charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault following an alleged physical altercation with The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs on Wednesday evening.
The incident occurred just hours before ballot boxes open for a special election that has caught national media attention because polls have tightened considerably in the reliably red state.
Gianforte allegedly slammed Jacobs to the floor at the candidate’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman as the reporter posed questions about the Republicans’ ObamaCare repeal plans — a charge Gianforte denies. Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna witnessed the incident and backed Jacobs's account.
"Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," Acuna wrote for Fox News’s website. She provided a similar account on air on Fox on Thursday.
"[Members of my crew] and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ ”
Democrats seized the opportunity to call on Gianforte to quit the race.
“Greg Gianforte must immediately withdraw his candidacy after his alleged violent assault of an innocent journalist,” said Tyler Law, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
The DCCC also put together an 11th-hour Facebook ad campaign pointing to the episode in hopes of swaying voters at the last minute.
Gianforte is expected to appear in court before June 7. He faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both.