Montana GOP candidate allegedly body slams Guardian reporter

A reporter for The Guardian newspaper says Greg Gianforte Republican Congressional candidate in Montana

(AP Photo/Matt Volz, File).

Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte is being charged with misdemeanor assault after a reporter said the Republican "body-slammed him" Wednesday, the day before the polls close in the nationally watched special election.

"The last guy did the same damn thing", Gianforte said.

The maximum penalty if convicted of the assault charge is a $500 fine and 6 months in jail. The statement added that the reporter's injuries did not meet the legal definition of felony assault.

Greg Gianforte, a Republican, was in a private office giving an interview when Guardian newspaper reporter Ben Jacobs went into the office without permission, Gianforte campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said.

"Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him", Acuna wrote.

Late in the race, Quist pivoted to emphasizing Gianforte's support for the House health care bill.

A crashing can then be heard, as Gianforte yells: "I'm sick and exhausted of you guys".

The account given by Gianforte's spokesperson alleges that Jacobs was the aggressor, grabbing the candidate by the wrist, before spinning away, resulting in them both ending up on the ground.

"Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses", Jacobs tweeted Wednesday evening.

After loud scuffling noises are heard, Gianforte yells, "Get the hell out of here" and demands to know if Jacobs is with the Guardian.

The Sheriff's office said that Gianforte was cited Wednesday night.

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On its web site, the Gallatin County Sherrifs Office confirmed that it is now investigating "allegations of an assault involving Greg Gianforte", saying it would provide more information when appropriate.

The incident is a last-minute curveball in Thursday's race, which was partly seen as a referendum on Donald Trump's presidency.

How many votes remain to be cast - and how many of those voters are truly undecided and might be swayed by an episode like this - remains to be seen.

Montana's contest pits a wealthy businessman - Gianforte, who narrowly lost the race for governor a year ago - against Quist, a locally famous singer-songwriter and political neophyte. Democrats were hoping an upset would send a message to the GOP that Trump's souring approval ratings could damage their political fortunes even in deep red states.

A Republican running for Congress in Montana was cited for misdemeanor assault after he allegedly "bodyslammed" a reporter for The Guardian newspaper Wednesday on the eve of the state's hotly contested vote.

However, both sides say the House race was tightening as Quist focused on criticism of the Republican effort to repeal and replace former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Scott Sales, the Republican president of Montana's state senate, unsuccessfully vied against Gianforte for his party's congressional nomination. Greg Gianforte is campaigning throughout Montana ahead of a May 25 special election to fill Montana's single congressional seat. The Guardian posted audio of the exchange between Jacobs and Gianforte, which appeared to back up the reporter's account.

It contends he "aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face and began asking badgering questions" before being asked to leave.

The 45-second recording does not contain a request from Gianforte that Jacobs lower his phone.

It's a sign that Gianforte is on his own in the final hours of the campaign. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of "I'm sick and exhausted of this!" He later said it was a joke and the reporter in the room laughed with everyone else.

Republicans have held Montana's House seat for two decades, and Gianforte was still favored in a state Trump won by more than 20 percentage points in last year's presidential election.

Jacobs' account was partly corroborated by BuzzFeed news reporter Alexis Levinson, who was in an adjacent room when the incident occurred and posted her account on Twitter.