Here’s What Montana Voters Are Waking Up to After Greg Gianforte’s Assault Charge

The GOP candidate was charged with assault after allegedly attacking a Guardian reporter.

Freddy Monares/Bozeman Daily Chronicle/AP

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In the wake of Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault of a reporter Wednesday, all three of the state’s largest newspapers have withdrawn their endorsements of him. The papers, which include the Billings Gazette, Missoulian, and Independent Record, pulled their support within hours of the shocking incident, which came on the eve of Montana’s special election to fill the seat of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“If what was heard on tape and described by eye-witnesses is accurate, the incident in Bozeman is nothing short of assault,” an editorial from the Billings Gazette read. “We wouldn’t condone it if it happened on the street. We wouldn’t condone it if it happened in a home or even a late-night bar fight. And we couldn’t accept it from a man who is running to become Montana’s lone Congressional representative.”

Gianforte had touted the newspapers’ endorsements in a campaign video as recently as Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday evening, Guardian news reporter Ben Jacobs approached the GOP candidate with a question regarding the American Health Care Act. According to audio of their exchange, Gianforte quickly grew irritated by the question. Loud thuds can also be heard in the recording. Jacobs contacted the police and Gianforte was charged with assault for allegedly “body-slamming” him.

Shane Scanlon, a spokesman for the Republican candidate, released a statement calling Jacobs a “liberal reporter” and accused him of exhibiting “aggressive behavior.” However, three Fox reporters who witnessed the alleged attack confirmed Jacobs’ account and said they saw Gianforte grab Jacobs by the neck before pummeling him on the ground.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Gianforte’s alleged actions will have an effect on today’s race. Because of Montana’s absentee voter laws, most expected voters have already cast their ballots.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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