A Montana congressman misled investigators about his assault on a reporter the day before he was elected in May, claiming that “liberal media” were “trying to make a story,” the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Saturday, citing audio and documents.
U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, told an officer in an audio interview after the attack that reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian newspaper had grabbed him by the wrist and pulled both of them to the floor.
Audio of Gianforte’s interview with Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Scott Secor was released along with documents requested by the Chronicle and other news organizations after Gianforte was cited for assaulting Jacobs on May 24.
Gianforte later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.
The Chronicle requested the documents in June. After Gianforte, Jacobs and Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert did not object to the release, Gallatin County District Court Judge Holly Brown ruled this week that the documents could be released.
\The audio of the interview with Gianforte comes from a recording made by Sgt. Scott Secor outside of Gianforte’s headquarters shortly after the 5:07 p.m. call Jacobs made to 911, a minute after he posted on Twitter, “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”
Once at the scene, Secor spoke with Jacobs first. “This is the weirdest day,” Jacobs told Secor.
The documents include interviews with members of a Fox News crew who were in the room with Gianforte and Jacobs at the politician’s Bozeman campaign office.
Gianforte told Secor that he was preparing for an interview with Fox News when “this man broke into a private room in the back and stuck a microphone in my face and started asking me obnoxious questions.”
Gianforte said he tried to explain to him that he was in the middle of an interview, but that Jacobs kept “waving” the microphone in his face, the Chronicle reported.
“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,” Secor quoted Gianforte as saying.
After the incident Gianforte’s campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon, issued a statement that also blamed the attack on Jacobs, saying the reporter had grabbed the candidate’s wrist.
Gianforte publicly apologized to Jacobs and told supporters he wasn’t proud of his actions. His spokesman, Travis Hall, insisted on Friday that the documents contained “nothing new.”
“No one was misled, and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken. Greg took responsibility for his actions and is focused on serving the people of Montana,” Hall said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.