Republicans Blast Montana Candidate Charged With Assaulting Reporter

Republican lawmakers are criticizing their party’s congressional candidate in Montana after he was charged Wednesday with assaulting a reporter — one day before his special election for a House seat.

Audio of the confrontation suggests Gianforte grew angry after Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs put his recorder close to the candidate’s face while asking questions about the House GOP healthcare bill.

Jacobs said Gianforte “body slammed” him and broke his glasses. A Fox reporter who witnessed the altercation said Gianforte placed his hands around Jacobs's neck and also said that the candidate punched the reporter.

Gianforte’s campaign said Jacobs started the confrontation, that the “liberal journalist” entered the room without permission and “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face and began asking badgering questions."

After an investigation late Wednesday night, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin issued a statement that Gianforte had been charged with a misdemeanor assault.

Other Republican strategists say Gianforte’s campaign is taking the best approach possible by doubling down and putting his head down until the storm passes, though noting that he will later need to apologize once the results come in regardless of the outcome.

“They’ve decided to double-down on their version of the story and try to hunker down and ride out the storm,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “From a communications perspective, that might be the right way to go actually.”

“Right now, this is about political survival. It’s unfortunate that that’s how it has to play out, but the goal here is still to win the election.”

Read more from Lisa Hagan and Cristina Marcos at The Hill

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