Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, who is competing in the special election for Montana's vacant U.S. House seat, has been cited for misdemeanor assault following a reporter's accusation Wednesday that he was "body slammed" by Gianforte.
Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian, reported in a tweet initially that Gianforte "body slammed me and broke my glasses" at Gianforte's campaign headquarters south of Bozeman, Mont. Following that tweet, audio of the incident was released and a Fox News crew that witnessed the incident said they saw "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," followed by punching.
Gianforte's campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon gave a much different account, saying Jacobs "aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face ... Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, 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."
After conducting multiple interviews as part of its investigation, the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office said it had determined "there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault." The statement from Sheriff Brian Gootkin added that the "nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault."
Gianforte received a citation on Wednesday night, and is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7, the sheriff's office said.
Noting that it was brought to his attention at a press conference that he contributed $250 to Gianforte's campaign, Gootkin asserted that it "has nothing to do with our investigation which is now complete."
The special election to fill Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's former congressional seat takes place Thursday, though early ballots have already been cast. Gianforte faces Democrat Rob Quist, who wouldn't comment on the incident when asked by reporters. Several Democrats have called on Gianforte to drop out of the race.
It seems Gianforte will not be charged with fleeing the scene of the crime.
Gianforte left the venue in a car after the incident before a speaking engagement he was scheduled to give. Gootkin had been asked at his press conference whether Gianforte would be charged with fleeing the scene of a crime, to which he said that it would be determined as part of the investigation.
As of 1:21 a.m. ET, two major newspapers in the state, the Billings Gazette and the Missoulian, had pulled their endorsements of Gianforte.