As Montanans go to the polls in a special election to replace their one and only congressperson – who took a cabinet position in the Trump administration, we have a potentially devastating story against the Republican candidate.
Greg Gianforte, it seems, physically addressed a reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, who was asking him a question. He broke the reporter’s glasses and apparently little else (Jacobs went to the hospital, was checked and released).
But based on the initial accounts of this incident, three Montana newspapers immediately rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte.
What actually happened? That is very hard to tell. So far no video of the incident has surfaced (which is not to say that it won’t). But we do have an audio.
What I hear is a conversation. No raised voices, no threats. And then the sound of a very sudden physical event with Gianforte yelling:
“I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last guy who came in here you did the same thing!”
It sounds as if some “thing” got the immediate physical reaction, but, in the absence of video, there is no way to know for sure.
“He took me to the ground. I think he whaled on me once or twice … He got on me and I think he hit me … This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”
Gianforte claims, through a statement, that:
“(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. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”
If Jacobs was asked to leave and to lower the recorder, it was not on the audio – but could have happened before the audio started. No way to tell as of yet.
An eye witness to the incident, Fox News’s Alicia Acuna, reported that:
“At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith 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!’”
But today, during an interview with Laura Ingraham, Acuna changed her story.
From Edmunk Kozak’s article at lifezette.com:
“One of you guys said last night that he put his hands around his neck,” Ingraham said. “Which, as somebody who’s done a lot of taekwondo and self-defense, to me that seemed, that might not be exactly right.”
“You know, and I’m the one who said that,” Acuna replied, “I saw both his hands go up, not around his neck in a strangling type of way, but more just on each side of his neck, just grabbed him and I guess it could’ve been on his clothes, I don’t know.”
Ingraham asked Acuna if that meant she was changing her story.
“Again, just to clarify, he didn’t grab him by the neck with both hands in the way that was initially described, that’s not quite accurate,” Ingraham asked at the end of the interview.
“No, so it wasn’t like he grabbed him around the neck, he had one hand on each side of his neck”
There it is. The whole nine yards.
Now, what to you know – not think, but know – happened?
Pretty murky wouldn’t you say?
But that’s not the main issue. The main issue is whether it will affect Gianforte’s race against Democrat Rob Quist – who, when he isn’t running for congress, is a popular bluegrass and country rock singer/banjo player.
Despite Donald Trump winning Montana by over 20%, this was considered a close race that could go either way.
The election is today. But about 70% of the state had already early-voted, so the affect of this incident will be relatively limited.
And – here’s the kicker – who knows if getting angry at a possibly over-aggressive reporter will hurt Gianforte? It might even help him.
More on this if it becomes available…and I’ll be blogging about the results after we know who won.