MISSOULA, Mont. — Leading Republicans criticized Greg Gianforte on Thursday, the morning after the Republican candidate in Montana’s special congressional election was given a court date and citation for allegedly assaulting a reporter.

“From what I know of Greg Gianforte, this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an emailed statement. “We need to let the facts surrounding this incident unfold. Today’s special election is bigger than any one person; it’s about the views of all Montanans. They deserve to have their voices heard in Washington.”

At his weekly news conference, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned Gianforte’s alleged conduct and suggested that he should apologize — something he has not done in the hours since the incident and since Gallatin County police interviewed witnesses and announced charges.

As the polls close for Montana’s special election, voters respond to whether the incident influenced their vote. (McKenna Ewen, Abbey Nelson/The Washington Post)

“There is no time where a physical altercation should occur,” Ryan said. “It should not have happened. Should the gentleman apologize? Yeah, I think he should apologize. I know he has his own version, and I’m sure he’ll have more to say.”

Asked twice whether Republicans would let Gianforte join their conference, Ryan said they would. “I’m going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative,” he said.

Gianforte, meanwhile, has been silent about the incident. His campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon, released a statement that blamed the “aggressive” behavior of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for what Fox News journalists in the room described as a violent, unprovoked attack. Gianforte had been slated to appear on Fox News and MSNBC on Thursday, but both networks announced that the appearances were scrapped. Democrat Rob Quist, who has said he’ll leave the matter up to law enforcement, was slated to rally in Missoula but was doing little media interaction of his own.

Gianforte was still planning to rally Thursday night in Bozeman when the results of the election roll in. Rank-and-file Republicans, who had been hoping for a Gianforte win to relieve some of the pressure around the American Health Care Act’s vote and rollout, gave mixed reactions when asked about the allegations.

“When you run for office, you can’t put your hands on people,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

“Unfortunately, it’s kind of a sign of the times with people running for office and the press,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.). “It’s not my style. There’s a lot of [adversariness] between mainstream media and politicians … it’s not an excuse. I’m just saying it creates sometimes unneeded energy.”