Just one day ahead of voting in the hotly contested Montana election, the Republican candidate is accused of allegedly body slamming a reporter. Democratic nominee Mr Quist and Republican candidate Greg Gianforte are locked in a battle for the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke after he was appointed interior department secretary.

Accusation of assault

According to Ben Jacobs who is a reporter for The Guardian, he was interviewing Gianforte at his campaign headquarters when the GOP candidate body slammed him in response to a question he asked about the health care bill.

Jacobs said that Greg Gianforte got agitated and did not answer the question and lost his composure when he pressed him for an answer.

The incident was witnessed by a Fox news crew and they reported seeing Gianforte on top of the reporter and hitting him and yelling words to the effect that he was sick of this. A BuzzFeed reporter, Alexis Levinson, also reported that she witnessed Jacobs walk into the room where the TV crew as set up and then she heard a crash and saw the reporter fly in the air and hit the floor. The incident was videotaped and recorded.

GOP candidate charged

Police were called to the scene and the reporter was sent for medical attention and X-rays. The Gallatin County Sherriff's office found that there was sufficient evidence to charge Greg Gianforte with misdemeanour assault.

He must appear in court before June 7th. The incident and charges come at a critical time in the election which is being closely watched in the state of Montana where the stakes are high.

Brian Gootkinof, a sheriff with the county was asked whether he made a contribution to the campaign of Mr Gianforte and responded that he made a $250.

contribution but that it did not affect their investigation which is now complete. If the GOP candidate is convicted he can face jail time, a fine or both.

Newspapers withdraw endorsements

Montana’s largest newspapers withdrew their endorsements of the Republican in the aftermath of the assault on the reporter. The Missoulian and the Billings Gazette both felt that Gianforte should lose the confidence of voters and that violence of any kind should not be tolerated.

While Montana is a Republican favoured state, the Democratic candidate has been gaining ground. At this point the incident may not have much effect on the race since about half the voters have already cast ballots in early voting. The incident was also denounced by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Differing views of the Alleged assault

Mr Gianforte's campaign had a different view of the events stating that the reporter was asked to lower the recorder and declined and that when the Gianforte tried to grab the phone that was pushed in his face, the reporter grabbed his wrist causing both to fall to the ground.