Montana congressman Greg Gianforte (R-MT) misled the police when he was being interviewed for bodyslamming a reporter during his election campaign, according to newly-released documents of the investigation.
In his interview with a Gallatin County police sergeant on May 24, Gianforte blamed the incident on Ben Jacobs, the Guardian reporter he assaulted, and claimed that Jacobs had “started interrogating in a very intensive way.”
He then told the sergeant, “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.”
Gianforte’s campaign had released a statement that day giving the same story.
Gianforte’s version of events contradicted that of Jacobs, who said that the then-candidate had bodyslammed him and broke his glasses in response to a question about Obamacare repeal. Several Fox reporters who were at the scene confirmed Jacobs’ story, and said that the reporter hadn’t been aggressive at all.
Gianforte’s spokesman released a statement to the Associated Press that pushed back against the documents’ revelations, insisting that “no one was misled.”
“Greg took responsibility for his actions and is focused on serving the people of Montana,” said the spokesman.
Questions about Gianforte’s misleading account were met with a shrug from Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert, who said, “It is not a crime per se to lie to the cops.”
“When the police are investigating a case, suspects of crimes will say misleading things, and apparently that’s exactly what happened here on the part of both Mr. Gianforte and his campaign,” Lambert, a Republican, told the Associated Press.
In any case, Gianforte went on to win Montana’s special election the very day after the assault. He apologized to Jacobs and was later sentenced to 40 hours of community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault.