Politics

Gianforte Apologizes to Reporter, Will Donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists

Greg Gianforte / Getty

Newly elected Rep. Greg Gianforte (R., Mont.) on Wednesday issued an apology to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for body-slamming him and said he will be donating $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault after Jacobs said Gianforte "body slammed" him when he was trying to ask a question about the Republican health care bill the night before the congressional election, Politico reported.

"I write to express my sincere apology for my conduct on the evening of May 24. My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful," Gianforte wrote in the apology letter. "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."

The campaign's response initially blamed Jacobs and said that he was the one who "aggressively shoved a recorder" in Gianforte's face and was getting into Gianforte's personal space. Gianforte also called him a "liberal journalist" to try and discredit him by saying he was biased.

"After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ," Gianforte's spokesperson said initially.

Shortly after the incident, Gianforte defeated Democratic opponent Rob Quist and publicly apologized for the incident.

"Notwithstanding anyone's statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you," Gianforte wrote on Wednesday. "I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility."

Gianforte went on to say that he respects the role of the media asking tough questions and that Jacobs was doing his job.

Jacobs said in a statement that he accepts Gianforte's apology "and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements," according to Politico.

"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," Jacob wrote.