On Wednesday evening, Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, on the eve of the special election for Montana’s single congressional seat. Since the altercation, Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault.
On Thursday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) responded to the incident:
“There is never a call for physical altercations. There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or just between human beings, so that is wrong and it should not have happened. Should the gentleman [Gianforte] apologize? Yeah, I think he should apologize. I know he has his own version, and I am sure he is going to have more to say, but there is no call for this under any circumstance.”
Ryan stopped short of calling for Gianforte’s resignation from the race, saying, “The people of the state of Montana are going to decide today who they will send to Congress.” Reporters followed up Ryan’s answers asking if Gianforte wins will the speaker agree to seat him in Congress. Ryan answered:
“If he wins he has been chosen by the people of Montana… I am going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative. That’s not our choice, that is the people of Montana who choose that.”
Ryan concluded his remarks on Gianforte reiterating that he does not believe the candidate’s behavior is acceptable, but that the people of Montana will ultimately make the decision on who wins the race.
The Gianforte campaign released a statement citing how he believes the altercation with Jacobs happened:
However, Gianforte’s story was significantly undermined by an eyewitness report from a local Fox News team that witnessed the GOP candidate grabbing Jacobs by the neck, throwing him to the ground, and punching him.
Following the altercation, Montana newspapers, including The Billings Gazette, the Helena Independent Record, and The Missoulian, pulled their endorsements for Gianforte.
Polls close in Montana at 10:00 p.m. ET Thursday, and following Ryan’s words, “The people of the state of Montana are going to decide today who they will send to Congress.”