Last month, a special election was held in Montana to fill their vacant Congressional seat. The race heated up in the last weeks before the election, with Republican Greg Gianforte’s comfortable lead diminishing daily. The night before the election, Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs – who had been on the ground in Montana for weeks, and who had already tried to get answers on Gianforte’s position on healthcare – approached Gianforte for a comment about the latest Trumpcare news. Instead of just saying “no comment” or whatever, Gianforte lost his f–king mind and body-slammed Jacobs to the ground. Jacobs glasses were broken and Jacobs recorded (audio-recorded) his own on-the-record assault, which he promptly released to The Guardian.
Well, long story short, Gianforte won the election, even though the sheriff did cite him for misdemeanor assault. Gianforte’s initial statement about the incident was awful too, basically victim-blaming Jacobs for being a “liberal journalist” who, you know, asked him a question. So now Gianforte is issuing a big public apology for the assault.
Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who assaulted a Guardian journalist on the eve of his election to the US House of Representatives, has issued a full and unequivocal apology to the reporter and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The congressman-elect apologized to the reporter, Ben Jacobs, in a letter received late on Wednesday as part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims.
“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte wrote. “As both a candidate for office and a public official, I should be held to a high standard in my interactions with the press and the public. My treatment of you did not meet that standard.”
Gianforte said the $50,000 donation to the CPJ, an independent not-for-profit organization that promotes press freedom and that protects the rights of journalists worldwide, was made “in the hope that perhaps some good can come of these events”. He added: “I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
Gianforte still faces criminal charges over the altercation. If found guilty, he could be fined up to $500 or face a jail sentence of up to six months. He was expected to appear in Gallatin County justice court this week but was granted an extension to 20 June, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
At his election victory party, Gianforte apologized for his actions but did not address the false claims his campaign made about Jacobs. In his first post-election interview, with MTN News, Gianforte reiterated the apology but again did not directly respond to a question about why the campaign initially blamed the reporter. However, in his letter to Jacobs on Wednesday, Gianforte appeared to make reference to his campaign’s erroneous statement.
“Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” he wrote. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.” Gianforte’s apology continued: “I understand the critical role that journalists and the media play in our society. Protections afforded to the press through the Constitution are fundamental to who we are as a nation and the way government is accountable to the people … I had no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.”
As part of the settlement, Jacobs, who was represented by Kramon and Graham law firm in Baltimore and assisted by local counsel Michael D Cok in Bozeman, signed a release foregoing any potential civil claim against Gianforte in consideration of the charitable donation.
“I have accepted Mr Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” Jacobs said in a statement. “I hope the constructive resolution of this incident reinforces for all the importance of respecting the freedom of the press and the first amendment and encourages more civil and thoughtful discourse in our country.”
Ben Jacobs is a better man than all of us, because if that happened to me, I would not have accepted the apology and I would have sued Gianforte into oblivion. I would have been on every cable news show, showing off my broken glasses and crying. I hate this idea that victims of assault are supposed to be the “bigger person” and accept an apology or forgive and forget. So, no, while I respect Ben Jacobs’ decision here, I will never forget that Gianforte is a violent f–king psycho who has no business being a Congressman.
Photos courtesy of Getty.