Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana's sole congressional seat, was charged with assault Wednesday night after a reporter said the 56-year-old tech billionaire "body slammed" him for asking a tough question.
The special election to fill the seat, vacated by new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last March, will be held Thursday, meaning Gianforte's fit of rage came at about the worst time possible. Put it this way: These aren't the headlines you want voters waking up to election day.
The encounter with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs took place at Gianforte's campaign headquarters in Bozeman. Jacobs, who had previously broken a big story about the candidate's connections to sanctioned Russian companies, said he was "body slammed" by Gianforte and had his glasses broken.
Gianforte's campaign responded with a very different version of events, claiming that Jacobs was aggressive and was the first to make physical contact. There was only one problem with that story—Jacobs recorded the whole thing and it sounded nothing like how the campaign described it.
And then another problem emerged. Several other people in the room when the alleged body slamming went down said Gianforte was full of shit.
Here's how members of a FOX News TV crew described what happened: "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 reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, 'I'm sick and tired of this!'"
It is, without doubt, a bad bit of news to give views on the morning of election. But there's a pretty good chance that Gianforte wins this election anyway. He was favored coming into election day and more than half of the accepted ballots have already been filed by mail.