Congressman-elect Gianforte apologizes to reporter for assault

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Greg Gianforte — the Republican U.S. representative-elect who won a Montana congressional seat 24 hours after allegedly “body-slamming” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs — sent a letter to Jacobs Wednesday apologizing for his actions.

Gianforte also agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit organization that promotes press freedom and protects the rights of journalists, according to both his office and The Guardian. The donation was made “in the hope that perhaps some good can come of these events.”

“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte wrote in the letter to Jacobs, referring to the alleged May 24 altercation, which took place at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana. “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 letter is part of a settlement with Jacobs in which he agrees not to object to Gianforte entering a plea of “no contest” to a misdemeanor assault charge. Gianforte still faces criminal charges.

Following the release of the letter to Jacobs by a Guardian spokeswoman, Jacobs said in a statement, “I have accepted Mr. Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements. 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.”

Gianforte followed-up in a statement Wednesday saying, “I have taken full responsibility for my actions and both publicly and personally apologized to Mr. Ben Jacobs. Ben has accepted my apology and we are both ready to move on.”

Gianforte was running in a special election for the U.S. House seat in Montana when Jacobs described being “body-slammed” by the candidate after asking a question about healthcare policy. And a Fox News crew witnessing the interaction said Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.”

“I went from being vertical one moment to being horizontal the next,” Jacobs said in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America the morning after the alleged assault.

After winning the election the day after the alleged altercation, Gianforte apologized for his actions while speaking to supporters in Bozeman.

“When you make a mistake you have to own up to it, that’s the Montana way,” Gianforte said. “Last night I made a mistake … That’s not the person I am and it’s not the way I’ll lead in this state.”

Read Gianforte’s letter in its entirety below:

Dear Mr. Jacobs:

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. 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.

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

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 acknowledge that the media have an obligation to seek information. I also know that civility in our public discourse is central to a productive dialogue on issues. I had no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.

In the hope that perhaps some good can come of these events, I am making a $50,000 contribution to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent non-profit organization that promotes press freedom and that protects the rights of journalists worldwide.

I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness.

Sincerely,

Greg Gianforte

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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