The evening before the Montana special election to determine who would be the state’s next member of Congress, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, apparently fed up with unflattering press coverage and/or reporters asking questions about Republican healthcare plans, violently assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, throwing him to the ground and punching him.
The now-released police records of the assault show that Gianforte lied to police about his actions during questioning.
Sergeant Scott Secor of the Gallatin County sheriff’s office wrote in his report that he had interviewed Gianforte inside a parked vehicle outside the campaign headquarters where the assault took place. According to Secor’s account of the interview, Gianforte complained that Jacobs had “stuck a microphone in my face” and was asking “obnoxious questions”. Later in the interview, Gianforte described Jacobs’ behavior as “interrogating in a very intensive way”.
Secor described the interview: “He then went on to explain ‘I probably shouldn’t do it but I reached out for his phone … he grabbed my wrist, he spun, and we ended up on the floor … so he pulled me down on top of him’ … Gianforte said the ‘liberal media … is trying to make a story.’”
Both an audio recording of the incident and the eyewitness statements by other reporters would later disprove that story: It was Gianforte who initiated contact, by grabbing Jacobs and slamming him to the ground. Gianforte lied to the officer conducting the initial investigation.
While the now-congressman did apologize, evidently as part of a civil-suit settlement, the personally wealthy Gianforte’s post-assault behavior has not fully been the actions of a man who believes himself subject to the same laws as the little people; even after pleading guilty to the assault, Gianforte fought to prevent being fingerprinted and photographed as instructed by the court. He also spent no time in jail, but instead was ordered to complete community service and anger management. But it is unclear whether Gianforte will pay any price whatsoever for making false statements to the officer dispatched to investigate the assault.
Gianforte currently sits as a member of Congress, where he was welcomed by a party whose members have abandoned usual past pretenses of ethics and morals and who, apparently, will seat anyone.