Ex-NJ millionaire running for Congress charged with body slamming reporter
A former millionaire from New Jersey who is trying to get elected to Congress from Montana is facing a criminal investigation on the eve of a special election.
Montana Republican Greg Gianforte was accused Tuesday of "body slamming" a reporter from The Guardian, a British news organization covering the congressional race.
Ben Jacobs says he was trying to ask Gianforte a question about health care reform when he "took me to the ground," Jacobs was quoted as saying by his publication.
Jacobs' account was corroborated by journalists from other news organizations who witnessed part or all of the incident.
Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna said she and a news crew were in the room preparing to interview Gianforte when Jacobs walked in and asked Gianforte a question.
Acuna said "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!'"
Gianforte was not arrested Wednesday but he was later charged by Gallatin County sheriff with a misdemeanor offense.
In a statement to The Guardian, Gianforte's spokesman blamed the "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist."
“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground," the spokesman said.
In an audio recording of the incident posted by The Guardian, the candidate is not heard telling the reporter to lower the recorder.
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Gianforte, who unsuccessfully ran for governor last year, is facing Democrat Rob Quist in a race being closely watched as a referendum on President Donald Trump and congressional GOP leadership. The election is Thursday.
Gianforte spent several years living in New Jersey and was educated at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. He started his career at Bell Labs in Berkeley Heights.
Last year, he and his wife donated $10 million to Stevens, which already had received $10 million from the couple in 2012, for construction of a two-building Gianforte Academic Center in Hoboken.
A political blogger in Montana in April suggested that Gianforte might consider a political career in New Jersey if he fails out west.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.