Republican who 'body slammed' reporter wins Montana election

Greg Gianforte has apologised for Wednesday's incident, saying it is "the Montana way" to own up to mistakes

Republican who 'body slammed' reporter wins Montana election

File photo - Republican Greg Gianforte, right, with Donald Trump Jr., the U.S. president's son. Picture by: Bobby Caina Calvan/AP/Press Association Images

Republican Greg Gianforte has won a special election in the US state of Montana - only a day after being charged with assault for allegedly 'body slamming' a reporter.

CNN reports that, with 99% of precincts reporting, Gianforte won 50.3% of the vote, compared to 43.9% for his Democratic rival Rob Quist.

The special election was triggered after Montana's previous representative, Ryan Zinke, was appointed as US Secretary of the Interior. Gianforte will now take the state's only seat in the House of Representatives. 

The race had a dramatic eleventh hour twist on Wednesday night when Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs claimed he was 'body slammed' by Gianforte when attempting to ask a question. A team of Fox News journalists corroborated Jacobs' account.

Audio of the incident appeared to capture the altercation, with Gianforte shouting "get the hell out of here" after the scuffle. Jacobs did not suffer any significant injuries in the incident, but said his glasses were broken.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said that his office's investigation found there was "probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault".

Gianforte has since apologised for his behaviour, saying it is "the Montana way" to own up to mistakes.

Speaking to supporters following his victory, he said: "I should not have responded the way I did - for that I'm sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I'm sorry, Mr Ben Jacobs."

The Gianforte campaign had earlier accused Mr Jacobs of entering the office "without permission" and shoving "a recorder in Greg's face".

In a statement, they also slammed the "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist".

The win comes after Gianforte lost last year's race for Montana governor to Democrat Steve Bullock.

Rob Quist - an established folk singer - thanked voters for their support.

Despite the loss, the results do show a gain for Democrats in Montana, after their 2016 candidate picked up only 40.5% of the vote against Zinke.

Meanwhile, a fundraising campaign to buy Ben Jacobs a new pair of glasses after Wednesday's incident quickly hit its target of $800 - with the additional money raised set to be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.