Reporter: I never touched Gianforte
Ben Jacobs says he was just trying to ask a simple question.
The Guardian reporter who says he was body-slammed by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte recounted the confrontation in a CNN interview Thursday.
“I politely asked the congressman a question about the health care bill,” Jacobs told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day.” “It was a very strange moment that he suddenly, you know, grabs my recorder, and then things go haywire from there.”
Gianforte, a Republican running in a special election for an open House seat, was charged overnight with misdemeanor assault after the altercation with Jacobs on Wednesday.
The Gianforte campaign blamed Jacobs for “aggressive behavior,” and that Jacobs grabbed Gianforte’s wrist. But Jacobs told CNN that he never touched the candidate.
“They got my name right and my employer right, but other than that, there was not a single correct element there,” he said.
An audio file provided by Jacobs backs up his account of what happened, as do witness accounts from other journalists.
A Fox News team said they saw Gianforte grab Jacobs “by the neck with both hands” and slam him into the ground.
They said they “watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter.”
Asked earlier Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” about that account, Jacobs didn’t say whether he was punched. But he said he “was on the ground at the point, so it was a little bit sudden.”
Alexis Levinson, a reporter for BuzzFeed who said she had a partial view of the altercation, told CNN that she saw “feet fly in the air” from a nearby office.
“The door to the room was about half open, so I couldn’t see the whole thing,” she said. “I heard the crash. I saw his feet fly in a way that someone’s feet can fly only when they’re ending up on the ground.”
Gianforte is the running for the House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who was named President Trump’s interior secretary.