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Three major Montana papers withdraw Greg Gianforte endorsements

Turns out body slamming can take a big hit on a political campaign.

Three major Montana newspapers withdrew their endorsements for Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte right before the state’s special election over his alleged attack of a reporter.

Meanwhile, a grassroots group supporting Democratic House contenders rushed out a scathing ad urging voters to ensure Gianforte’s defeat. GOP leadership has remained silent.

The Billings Gazette, the Missoulian and the Helena Independent Record all reneged on their support for Gianforte — a decision that one paper said was “without precedent.”

Montana GOP candidate allegedly body-slams Guardian journalist

“We’re at a loss for words,” the Gazette wrote in its un-endorsement of Gianforte.

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Montana House candidate Greg Gianforte, a Republican.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“We believe that you cannot love America, love the Constitution, talk about the importance of a free press and then pummel a reporter. Beyond that, if Gianforte didn’t have the good and common sense to simply walk away from questions he didn’t like, we cannot believe he’s going to be able to make much more difficult, complex decisions when he’s in Congress.

Gianforte was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor assault after allegedly body slamming a reporter with the Guardian who doggedly asked him to comment about the GOP’s health care law. He faces up to six months in jail if convicted.

The journalist, Ben Jacobs, posted a recording of the confrontation, and a Fox News crew backed up his story about the violence. Gianforte’s campaign downplayed the violence in a statement contradicted by witness accounts. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dropped a new ad Thursday morning featuring Jacobs’ recording, which captured Gianforte yelling at the reporter and telling him to “get the hell out of here.”

A tweet from Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs announcing his alleged assault, which he recorded.

A tweet from Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs announcing his alleged assault, which he recorded.

(alde, Elizabeth/Twitter via @bencjacobs)

“Greg Gianforte: Charging with a crime. No business being in Congress,” the ad proclaims.

Gianforte faces off Thursday against Democratic candidate Rob Quist, a bluegrass musician, for the state’s lone congressional seat, which was previously filled by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

This vote, like the special House election to be held in Georgia next month, has been seen as a bellwether for the effect President Trump and his constant controversies could have on the Republican Party, which controls both parts of Congress.

Democrats have been hoping for victories in Montana and Georgia to send a message about the GOP losing its luster with red state voters ever since Trump surged into the White House.

President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the National Republican Congressional Committee have yet to comment on the Gianforte confrontation.

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