House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday condemned the alleged assault of a reporter by Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte in the hotly contested special election to fill a vacant House seat in Montana.
Gianforte has been charged by local police with misdemeanor assault for alleging body-slamming a reporter from The Guardian newspaper who pressed the candidate about the impacts of the Republican health care bill on Wednesday. A Fox News crew that witnessed the incident said Gianforte was punching reporter Ben Jacobs.
Ryan said he thought Gianforte should apologize for his actions, which sent Jacobs to the hospital for X-rays.
“There’s never a time for physical altercations … so that is wrong and should not have happened,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters at his weekly news conference.
“I do not think this is acceptable behavior,” Ryan added a few minutes later. “But the choice is up to the people of Montana.”
Montanans were voting Thursday on whether to choose Gianforte, a software entrepreneur, or Democrat Rob Quist, a singing cowboy and political newcomer, to be the lone House member from the sparsely populated state. The seat became vacant when Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke left to be secretary of the Interior for President Trump.
Pelosi denounced Gianforte as “sort of a wannabe Trump” in his aggressive behavior.
“Donald Trump is his model,” the California Democrat told reporters in her own weekly news conference. “Behave! That was outrageous.”
She said Congress tries to “have some level of dignity” and that such violence must stop “for the sake of our children.”
Gianforte’s spokesman, Shane Scanlon, said the candidate asked Jacobs to lower his recorder as the reporter was questioning him.
“Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face,” Scanlon said in a statement. “Jacobs grabbed…