As "nuts" as it was, it's anyone's guess how the altercation between Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte and Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs will affect Thursday's special election in Montana, University of Montana political science professor Robert Saldin said Wednesday night.
Several voters have already cast their ballots, Saldin told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and some anti-media Republicans might be sympathetic to Gianforte, who has used strong rhetoric against journalists in previous campaign speeches. Jacobs tweeted Wednesday evening that Gianforte body slammed him when he was asking a question during a campaign event, an account supported by a team from Fox News. The Guardian has released audio of the incident, and Gianforte's campaign released a statement at odds with what's heard on the recording and reported by Fox News. Jacobs walked into a room without permission and "aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face," the Gianforte campaign said, insisting that the candidate merely "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."
In a news conference Wednesday night, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said because authorities are investigating the altercation, he couldn't provide much information beyond that Gianforte and Jacobs will both be interviewed. Tina Olechowski, a spokeswoman for Democratic candidate Rob Quist, declined to comment about the incident when asked by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and said Quist was on his way to Missoula when he heard about what happened. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law said the Republican Party should publicly speak out against what Gianforte allegedly did.