Montana congressman-elect Greg Gianforte, who was charged with a misdemeanor after allegedly slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground for asking a question, has apologized to the reporter and announced a donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“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 in a letter published Wednesday night. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”
Jacobs accepted the apology, which accompanied a $50,000 donation to the CPJ. “I have accepted Mr. Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” he said in a statement released by a spokesman. “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.”
The letter was described by the Guardian as “part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims.” But Gianforte is still facing criminal misdemeanor charges in Gallatin County, Mont., where he lives and where the incident occurred.
The Gianforte campaign’s original response was to accuse a “liberal reporter” of initiating physical contact, a description contradicted by witnesses who worked for Fox News and had been waiting to interview the candidate when Jacobs began asking for his reaction to the Congressional Budget Office’s score of the American Health Care Act. For much of Election Day, Gianforte allies stuck to that story, with a campaign intern insisting that Jacobs was the aggressor, and radio host Laura Ingraham spreading an inaccurate rumor that the Fox reporters were changing their stories.
On election night, May 25, Gianforte used his victory speech to apologize to Jacobs. As of Wednesday, he had no set date to start his service in the House. Montana has not yet issued the certificate of election which will allow him to take the seat.