WASHINGTON (JTA) — Greg Gianforte, the Republican who allegedly body slammed a reporter on the eve of a special election in Montana, appears to have won the election.
Gianforte, a tech millionaire backed by President Donald Trump, defeated folk singer Rob Quist, 50-44, early Friday morning in the race for the at-large — or statewide — U.S. House of Representatives district.
On Wednesday, the eve of the election, Gianforte allegedly body slammed Ben Jacobs, a Jewish reporter for the British Guardian newspaper, after Jacobs asked a question about health care reform, a key issue in the campaign. Jacobs posted audio of the encounter, and Fox News Channel journalists who were present verified the account.
At his victory celebration, Gianforte apologized to Jacobs by name.
“I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry Mr. Ben Jacobs,” he said.
Democrats invested heavily in the race hoping for a win in order to wound Trump, who won the district by more than 20 points. Ryan Zinke, the previous congressman who left office to become Trump’s Interior secretary, won the district by 16 points.
Three Montana newspapers withdrew support for Gianforte on the day of the election because of the incident, but it’s not clear what effect the incident had on the vote. Nearly 260,000 voters had cast their ballots in early voting before the incident took place.
There was no indication that Gianforte knew or cared that Jacobs was Jewish when he allegedly threw the reporter to the ground and broke his glasses, leading to misdemeanor assault charges.
On far-right websites and social media, anti-Semitic posters noted Jacobs’ Jewishness and praised Gianforte.