Paul Ryan signals he would still seat Greg Gianforte if he wins special election

FILE PHOTO: U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during his news conference after Republicans pulled the American Health Care Act bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act act known as Obamacare, prior to a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 24, 2017.

Yuri Gripas

Speaker Paul Ryan has signaled that he would still seat GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte in the House if he wins Montana's special election Thursday despite having been charged with misdemeanor assault late Wednesday.

"If he wins, he has been chosen by the people of Montana who their congressman is going to be. I'm going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative," the Wisconsin Republican said at his weekly news conference when asked by CBS News' Nancy Cordes if he would seat Gianforte if he wins Thursday.

Ryan emphasized that there's "never a call for physical altercations."

"There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or just between human beings. That is wrong and should not have happened," he said.

Ryan said that Gianforte should apologize, but acknowledged that the candidate has his "own version" of what happened.

"There's no call for this, no matter what, under any circumstance," Ryan said.

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault late Wednesday after he was accused of "body-slamming" Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, in his campaign office earlier in the evening and breaking Jacobs' glasses.

The Guardian posted audio of the incident that occurred on Wednesday and a Fox News crew that had set up in the room where it took place provided eyewitness accounts. Jacobs was heard in the audio asking Gianforte a question about the cost estimate the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released earlier in the day of the House-passed health care bill to repeal and replace Obamacare before the altercation transpired.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, on Thursday called Gianforte a "wannabe Trump" at her weekly press conference and said the president is his model. She went on to say, "Behave, behave. That was outrageous." She said she hoped the people of Montana would demand a higher standard.

Gianforte's opponent is Democrat Rob Quist.

CBS News' Catherine Reynolds contributed to this report. 

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.