Montana Election Twist: Reporter alleges Gianforte grabbed him

FILE PHOTO - In this Oct. 5, 2016, file photo, Republican candidate for governor Greg Gianforte answers a reporter's question in his home in Bozeman, Mont. Gianforte is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in the Nov. 8 elections. (AP Photo/Matt Volz, File)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) – The Latest on the assault case against Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for a Montana congressional seat in a Thursday special election. (all times local):

9:20 a.m. – It’s unclear how an alleged assault of a reporter by a Montana congressional candidate will affect the special election’s outcome – in part because more than a third of the state’s registered voters cast absentee ballots before polls opened Thursday.

Republican Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly throwing a reporter for the Guardian to the ground at his campaign headquarters late Wednesday.

Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist are seeking to fill the U.S. House seat left vacant when Ryan Zinke resigned to become President Donald Trump’s Interior secretary.

Montana’s secretary of state’s office says 37 percent of registered voters had returned absentee ballots as of Wednesday.

Montana has just over 699,000 registered voters.

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8:40 a.m. – GOP lawmakers emerging from a closed-door caucus meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday said they didn’t know the facts about Republican Greg Gianforte being charged with misdemeanor assault.

A reporter from the Guardian accused the tech millionaire of slamming him to the ground and breaking his glasses in an altercation at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman on Wednesday afternoon. The reporter had tried to ask Gianforte a question about the latest budget analysis of the GOP health care bill.

A few lawmakers did comment.

Asked if assaulting a reporter is appropriate behavior, California Rep. Duncan Hunter said, “Of course not. It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”

Indiana Rep. Luke Messer said he wasn’t sure whether the incident would hurt or help Gianforte in Thursday’s special election for the open House seat.

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7:50 a.m. – The polls are open in a race for Montana’s only congressional seat just hours after the front-running candidate was charged with beating up a reporter.

Republican Greg Gianforte has not appeared in public since he was charged with misdemeanor assault late Wednesday. A reporter from the Guardian accused the tech millionaire of slamming him to the ground and breaking his glasses in an altercation Wednesday afternoon at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman.

Gianforte’s camp issued a statement hours before the charge was filed disputing reporter Ben Jacobs’ account. But an audio recording Jacobs made and a Fox News crew that witnessed the altercation back up Jacobs’ version.

Three of Montana’s biggest newspapers pulled their endorsements of Gianforte but did not endorse his opponents.

Jacobs told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he was doing his job and asking a question.

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5 a.m. – The Guardian reporter who authorities say was assaulted by a Montana Republican candidate for a U.S. House seat says he never touched the politician before he was thrown to the ground.

Ben Jacobs told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he was doing his job and asking a question of candidate Greg Gianforte as part of covering Thursday’s special election.

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault. He’s accused of grabbing Jacobs by the throat and throwing him to the ground in his campaign office Wednesday night. Gianforte’s campaign blamed Jacobs, saying the reporter was being aggressive and grabbed Gianforte.

Jacobs said Thursday of Gianforte’s account that “the only thing that is factually correct … is my name and place of employment.”

Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist are seeking to fill the U.S. House seat left vacant when Ryan Zinke resigned to join Trump’s Cabinet as secretary of the Interior Department.

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12:30 a.m. – Thursday’s special election for Montana’s sole congressional seat got a last-minute twist when the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Greg Gianforte was cited for grabbing a reporter by the throat and throwing him to the ground in his campaign office Wednesday night. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, was asking Gianforte about the Republican health care bill. Three Fox News employees witnessed the attack, which was also captured on an audio recording.

Gianforte’s campaign blamed Jacobs for the incident.

Many voters cast their ballot early so it’ll be hard to know the impact of the charge on the election results. Authorities said Jacobs’ injuries weren’t severe enough for a felony assault charge.

 

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