One side of the dispute between a GOP candidate and a reporter about what happened during a body-slamming assault Wednesday was strengthened when Fox News reporters who witnessed the incident issued their report.
The altercation was reported by The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on his Twitter account, where he said simply, "Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses[.]"
Jacobs said he was pressing Gianforte on the CBO score of the GOP's Obamacare bill that passed the House, when he was "body slammed" without provocation.
The Gianforte campaign issued a statement that blame Jacobs for the altercation.
"Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission," it read, "aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions."
"Jacobs was asked to leave," the statement said. "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. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."
But when the witnesses to the event from the Fox News team reported on what they had seen, they backed Jacobs' version, and contradicted what the Republican candidate said happened.
During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte's face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.
At that point, 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!"
Fox News indicated that contrary to Gianforte's version of the events, Jacobs never showed any "physically aggression" toward the candidate. Audio captured of the altercation also seemed to lack evidence for the claim that Gianforte asked Jacobs to "lower the recorder" as his statement indicated.
Late Wednesday, the Gallatin County sheriff released a statement saying that Gianforte had been charged with misdemeanor assault. Polls opened for the special election Thursday, just hours after the assault.