Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in Montana's congressional election, attacked a reporter from UK newspaper The Guardian, body-slamming him and breaking his glasses.
In audio recorded by Ben Jacobs, who covers the U.S. political beat, you can hear Gianforte getting shirty, then, when pressed, the muffled sounds of what Jacobs said was "the strangest thing that has ever happened to him in politics."
"I'm sick and tired of you guys," Gianforte said. "The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?"
"Yes! You just broke my glasses," Jacobs replied.
"The last guy did the same damn thing," Gianforte said.
"You just body slammed me and broke my glasses," Jacob said.
"Get the hell out of here," Gianforte yelled.
Jacobs was taken to hospital but is fine—except for his specs. A TV crew and a Buzzfeed reporter were nearby at the time, each apparently getting a partial look at the altercation. The Gallatin County sheriff, Brian Gootkin, says he's investigating.
One interesting aspect to Gianforte: he's a tech entrepreneur, which would account both for his emotional inability to cope with conflict and his evidently slobbish and untutored combat technique.
UPDATE: Gianforte's campaign released a statement suggesting that Jacobs got physical, not Gianforte. I'm not sure if it was released before or after The Guardian published its audio of the incident, but one doubts they were aware of it.
UPDATE II: The Fox affiliate news crew in the room with them released a statement, and it's completely damning for Gianforte.
Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. 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 tired of this!"
Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. He then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.
To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies.
UPDATE III, 5 a.m. Thursday: He's been charged with assault and the big local newspapers supporting him have publicly repudiated their endorsements. The interesting wrinkle is that it all happened so late in the race—the election is today!—that it seems unlikely to cut Gianforte's substantial polling lead. When you consider mail-in votes, they may already have all-but elected this lying handsy thug.