Ryan Calls On Gianforte to Apologize for Assault, Says Election up to Montana Voters

by Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday called on Republican Greg Gianforte to apologize after he was charged with assaulting a reporter, but said he will leave it up to Montana voters to decide whether they want him to serve in Congress.

"I do not think this is acceptable behavior, but the choice will be made by the people of Montana," Ryan said during a press conference. "I think he should apologize."

A Montana sheriff charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault Wednesday night after Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs said the politician "body slammed" him at a campaign event in Bozeman while the reporter tried to ask a question.

RELATED: What to watch for in Montana: Three scenarios

The incident occurred hours before polls opened Thursday in the high-profile race between Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist for the state’s open House seat.

Democrats immediately demanded Gianforte withdraw from the race, while three of the state’s largest newspapers rescinded their endorsements of the GOP candidate.

But a defiant Gianforte portrayed himself as the victim, with a spokesperson blaming the "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist."

Republicans for the most part stood by Gianforte, with several telling reporters he would be welcome on Capitol Hill.

"We all make mistakes," said Ohio GOP Rep. Steve Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "From what I know of Greg Gianforte, this was totally out of character."

Montana Sen. Steve Daines, one of Gianforte’s biggest supporters, called on the candidate to apologize and said he would leave it up to law enforcement. "I do not condone violence in any way," he said.

A source close to the Gianforte campaign told NBC News they raised over $100,000 online in the 24 hours, with most of the donations coming after the incident.

Jacobs told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he was trying to ask Gianforte about the Congressional Budget Office’s financial analysis of the Republican health care plan when "the next thing I know, I’m being body-slammed."

"He’s on top of me. My glasses are broken," Jacobs said. "It’s the strangest moment that’s happened in my entire life reporting."

Jacobs' claims were supported by an audio recording of the event and an eyewitness account by a Fox News crew that happened to be in the same room. BACK to margotbworldnews.com

 

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