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Ben Jacobs claims Montana GOP candidate Greg Gianforte “body slammed” him after he asked about the latest CBO score. A Buzzfeed reporter confirmed the account saying she heard a loud crash and saw his feet fly in the air.
USA TODAY

Democrats wasted no time using Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged takedown of a journalist.

On Thursday morning, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee turned out targeted at Montana voters using a recording of Gianforte allegedly assaulting a political reporter the night before.

The ad dropped about 9 a.m., just hours after Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault for his reported “body slam” of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.

The ad starts with a banner headline of, “Must listen: Greg Gianforte violently assaults reporter,” along with the onscreen instruction to “turn up your volume.”

Under the graphics plays the sound of Gianforte allegedly roughing up Jacobs at a campaign volunteer BBQ. Jacobs claims Gianforte “body slammed” him and broke his glasses.

“This is the sound of Republican Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte violently assaulting a journalist,” reads the text. “He body slammed him. The election is right now. Go. Vote. Against. Him. Vote for Rob Quist.”

News of the altercation spread nationwide Wednesday night, casting more light on a Montana special election seen as an early test of Democratic efforts to unseat Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. Polls show Gianforte has a single-digit lead over Democratic challenger Rob Quist in the Thursday contest. The winner fills the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, now the Interior secretary.

Overnight, Gianforte lost two newspaper endorsements because of the incident, which was condemned by The Guardian.

The DCCC, the campaign arm for House Democrats, paid for the ad. The group also called on Gianforte to drop out of the race. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee, a political committee for House Republicans, didn’t immediately offer a response to the incident. Quist’s campaign also chose not to comment.

In a statement, the Gianforte campaign said Jacobs first laid hands on the candidate after he “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions.” 

“Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face,” the statement said. “Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

Gianforte had agreed to an interview Thursday evening on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily. He has since canceled the appearance.

Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman