A congressional ethics complaint has been filed by several press freedom groups against Rep.-elect Greg. Gianforte, R-Mont., for allegedly body-slamming a reporter asking him a question on the eve of the state’s special election. PEN America, Free Press, Society of Professional Journalists and Reporters Without Borders filed a formal complaint with Congressional ethics officials on Friday.
This comes approximately one week after Gianforte allegedly body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who was asking him a question about the recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of the GOP’s health bill. The press groups asked the ethics committee to discipline Gianforte for allegedly attacking Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
Gianforte’s reference to Jacobs as a liberal journalist was referred to as an apparent attempt to undermine his credibility. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault on 24 May, after allegedly “body-slamming” Jacobs, breaking his glasses.
Eyewitnesses and audio recordings revealed that the incident escalated when Jacobs asked Gianforte, then the Republican candidate in a hotly contested special election for Montana’s sole congressional seat, a question about the Republican healthcare plan. Jacobs got it rough after Gianforte grabbed him by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground.
A statement made by Gabe Rottman, who is Pen America’s Washington director, said that: “A member of the House hasn’t physically assaulted someone this severely since the civil war, and we are unaware of any historical precedent for a lawmaker beating up a reporter.
Rottman also indicated that it is essential for the House to send a clear message to its members and to the nation that hostile treatment of the press will not be tolerated or ignored.
The press groups also sent a letter to the House ethics committee to remind the panel that it is required to open an investigation within 30 days of a criminal charge against a member. Gianforte was not yet an elected member of the House when the incident occurred.