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Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., on Monday alleged that the husband of his primary opponent assaulted one of his staff members during a campaign event over the weekend, a claim his opponent vehemently denied.
In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Zinke said Rick Todd, the husband of his opponent, Mary Todd, was seen destroying and removing campaign material from an event space at the Montana GOP kickoff in Helena.
Mary Todd's campaign has since denied Zinke's allegations.
Zinke said staff told Rick Todd to leave and he "grew aggressive," forcibly pulling a sign from his staff’s hands while yelling at them and other witnesses.
Zinke alleged that Rick Todd then punched one of his staff members, while yelling at others who were trying to get him to walk away. Zinke cited witnesses as saying Rick Todd "aggressively approached" his staff, "apologizing for his actions while being told again by event organizers to please leave my staff alone."
Per Zinke’s telling, Mary Todd then approached his staff and admitted her husband’s guilt, telling his staff and witnesses that is "wrong and shameful" for her husband to have assaulted one of Zinke’s staff members.
"This is not the first time Mr. Todd has acted aggressively on the campaign trail," Zinke said. "During the 2022 campaign, he verbally accosted my wife and my female staff. This behavior is simply unacceptable."
Two witnesses who were granted anonymity and are not affiliated with either campaign, but who were referred to Fox News Digital by Zinke's campaign, described Rick Todd and campaign staffers both trying to wrangle the posters.
One witness told Fox News Digital the dispute occurred over three blown up checks displaying donations that the Todds had made to Zinke last year.
"Upon seeing this in the hallway, Rick began to take them down and informed those standing by that he was taking. When confronted by a Zinke staffer and informed that those were property of the campaign, he became aggressive and shouted that since it had his information on it, it was his and he was taking it. At this point, he tried to pull the check from another staffer, cursing and grabbing him in the process. Some bystanders defused the situation before it could escalate further," the witness said.
The second witness said, "Rick Todd picked up the check and said he was angry that it had his wife’s signature on it. The Zinke staffer approached him and grabbed the check from Rick. They engaged in tug of war over the check."
Zinke said he was not going to press charges, believing the episode "is better resolved with a personal apology."
Todd's campaign told Fox News Digital in a statement that Zinke's allegations were "categorically false and defamatory."
"After the Congressional Primary of 2022, my husband Rick and I did donate two $1000 checks to Ryan Zinke’s campaign," the campaign said. "We also hosted a fund raiser in our home, in his honor. What the Zinke campaign is calling 'campaign material' is one of our checks which they enlarged and publicly displayed at the GOP winter Kick-Off in Helena. My husband was understandably upset because our private information was on display. He did not punch anyone. Zinke, on the other hand, resorted to slanderous lies."
Zinke's campaign pushed back at the Todd campaign's denial when reached Tuesday morning by Fox News Digital, saying Rick Todd "lost his temper," and that any potentially identifying information had been redacted from the check.
"Regarding the assault: Rather than be an adult and admit he lost his temper and acted inappropriately, Rick Todd is now lying about it and trying to use valuable law enforcement resources as a weapon to cover his tracks. Multiple witnesses will back up the fact that Rick Todd is lying," the Zinke campaign said. "The video he seeks, if it exists, will also prove Rick Todd is lying. The simple fact is he lost it, just like he lost it when he yelled at Mrs. Zinke and female staff outside the polling site in Kalispell on primary election day in 2022. The only acceptable next step for Todd is to back down, apologize and be held accountable."
"Regarding the check: Mr. Todd’s statement that information was unlawfully disclosed is another desperate lie made in attempt to cover up his shameful, criminal behavior. The pertinent information was redacted, and he knows that. Mr. Todd is fully aware that political donations are reported to the FEC and publicly available to lookup on FEC.gov."
Fox News Digital reviewed images of the checks sent by both campaigns. The poster did appear to redact some information, though it included the Todds' address and a signature on the checks. However, that address is also publicly available in FEC forms reviewed by Fox News Digital.
Original article source: GOP Rep Zinke alleges husband of primary opponent punched staff member