Politics

6 Times Things Got Physical on the Campaign Trail

Davis campaign aide latest to cross the line

Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte posted a public apology to a reporter and pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists after he admitted to body-slamming him the night before a 2017 House special election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Levi Lovell, campaign field director for Illinois Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after chasing the congressman’s Democratic opponent, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, around a local bar.

Amid all the heat and pressure of an election year, political disputes hardly ever get physical — until they do.

Here are six times things got physical on the campaign trail, including clashes between political rivals or campaigns crossing a line with the media.

Volunteer crosses the line

A major donor and campaign coordinator for Republican Rand Paul was caught on video in 2010 stepping on a liberal activist’s head and pinning her face to the concrete.

Tim Profitt, who was volunteering for Paul’s first Senate bid, was quickly removed from his campaign role. He later apologized for the incident while claiming he was trying to protect the candidate and deflecting blame on to police for not getting involved sooner.

“I’m sorry that it came to that, and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful, but I was concerned about Rand’s safety,” Fox News reported Profitt saying. He was sentenced to a year’s probation and paid a $600 fine.

Etheridge boils over

After two students with a video camera confronted Rep. Bob Etheridge in June 2010 about his support for “the Obama agenda,” the North Carolina Democrat lost his cool, CBS News reported. Etheridge demanded to know who the students were and swatted at their camera. He then grabbed one of them by the wrist, then by the neck, and wrenched him around on camera before ultimately letting him go.

The confrontation with the students, who Democrats said were sent by conservative political operatives, spread rapidly on conservative blogs. Etheridge later apologized for his “unacceptable” behavior. He narrowly lost his re-election bid that fall.

Gianforte’s body slam

In one of the most famous incidents of violence by a congressional candidate, Montana Republican Greg Gianforte body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in the middle of an interview one day before the May 2017 House special election — which he won.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanour assault. Initially, his campaign falsely claimed that Jacobs had initiated the physical contact, a statement Gianforte later conceded was false.

Now a sitting congressman, Gianforte avoided a lawsuit with Jacobs by agreeing to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Lewandowski’s strong arm

Corey Lewandowski, a onetime campaign manager for President Donald Trump, was briefly charged with battery against Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields after he grabbed her by the arm at a Florida campaign event in 2016.

Lewandowski initially claimed he never touched Fields, but later said he was merely moving her out of the way to protect Trump after security-camera footage confirmed the incident. Prosecutors later dropped the case against Lewandowski. 

The full Grayson 

In the closing months of his 2016 Senate primary contest, a colorful Florida Democrat put his hands on a reporter and threatened him with arrest while wearing his signature American flag tie.

It was Alan Grayson, of course. How could it not be Alan Grayson?

“You’re getting in my way my, friend. You are assaulting a member of Congress,” he said to the reporter, who was asking about allegations that Grayson had abused his former wife. Grayson, who said he would report the incident to the Capitol Police, went on to lose the primary.

Alabama altercation

A couple of Fox News photographers were doing their jobs last fall at an Alabama rally for the embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore: trying to get a shot of the candidate on his way to a campaign rally in Henagar.

Two campaign staffers for Moore had other ideas. They roughed up and “physically manhandled” the photographers, according to Fox News. Moore’s campaign chairman partly blamed the media for “trying to stampede us.”

The incident came weeks after the emergence of sexual abuse allegations against Moore. The former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice ended up losing the special election to Democrat Doug Jones.

Watch: ‘Kavanautical Miles,’ the Chuck E. Cheese Model and TMZ — Congressional Hits and Misses

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.