On ABC, Guardian reporter recounts how GOP candidate assaulted him

Ben Jacobs: It's “very disappointing for what it means for the press and what the role of reporters are to ask questions of politicians in the United States”

From the May 25 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

Video file

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (CO-HOST): OK, we’ve got Ben Jacobs on the phone right now. We're going to talk to him. Of course, he was the reporter in the center of that incident in Montana last night. Ben, thanks for joining us this morning. First things first, how are you feeling? 

BEN JACOBS: I'm still making it. It's still, it's still been surprising and shocking set of events, but I'm recovering. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's good to know. Give us your side of the story. We heard that statement from the [Greg] Gianforte campaign saying you were the aggressor here. Tell us what happened from your perspective. 

JACOBS: I mean I think that these statements I gave to the police, what Fox says, the audio says for itself. The only thing in Gianforte's statement that is factually correct is my name and my place of employment. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: So walk us through what happened. Now you walk up. You want to ask a question about the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] report. What happens next? 

JACOBS: Then, as you said, then you hear exactly what happens, what happens in the audio and I never touched or came close to Gianforte and it's -- it became -- it became something that turned on a dime into the type of encounter I've never expected to have with a politician and one that's very disappointing for what it means for the press and what the role of reporters are to ask questions of politicians in the United States. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he put his hands on your neck. The Fox reporter said he was punching you?

JACOBS: That's – the Fox reporter says that. I was on the ground at that point so it was a little bit sudden, but I went from being vertical one moment to being horizontal the next. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: We hear him saying on that tape that he's sick and tired of this. Have you had any history with the candidate?

JACOBS: No, I hadn't. I've been following the candidate. Went to a couple of campaign stops. I think there may have been some discontent with an article done by a colleague of mine, but I have no personal interactions with him other than sort of following him around from the couple campaign stops in Great Falls and Helena. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's been charged with misdemeanor, not felony assault. Is that good enough for you?

JACOBS: It's done. I've made my statement to the police and that's the decision the police made. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: And do you expect to take any further legal action? 

JACOBS: I'm still -- this is still sort of 12 hours after it happened. I'm still -- still trying to quite figure out what's going on and cope with the fact that it's someone who's a reporter being brushed into the center of a story, which is not a comfortable place. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a comfortable place to be, but it is still possible that you will take further, perhaps civil action? 

JACOBS: I haven't even begun to think about that right now. Right now I'm just more concerned about trying to figure out what's going on and just expressing my concern of the fact that -- that reporters trying to ask basic policy questions of politicians are sort of meeting this response and being very heartened by the reaction I've been getting by my fellow colleagues.


Fox & Friends parrots Montana GOP congressional candidate's defense for assaulting reporter