Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won a U.S. House seat in late May, on Wednesday formally apologized to a reporter with the Guardian and explicitly acknowledged that he assaulted the reporter.
“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,” Gianforte wrote in the letter to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
“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 continued. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”
The Wednesday letter was the first time that Gianforte acknowledged that he assaulted Jacobs. The Montana Republican apologized for his conduct during his victory speech in late May, but at the time he did not admit to assault.
His letter also explicitly contradicts a statement from the campaign issued soon after the incident with Jacobs. In that statement, a spokesman for Gianforte alleged that Jacobs initiated physical contact with Gianforte. However, Jacobs’ account of the incident, as well as accounts from witnesses, contradicted the campaign’s initial version of events. Jacobs accused Gianforte of bodyslamming him, while a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident said that Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck, slammed him to the ground, and punched Jacobs.
Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault following the incident but has yet to appear in court. Gianforte must appear in court by June 20, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
He wrote in his letter to Jacobs that he will donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The donation and letter are part of a settlement with Jacobs, who signed a release giving up his ability to file a civil lawsuit against Gianforte, according to the Guardian. However, Gianforte still faces the misdemeanor assault charge.
“I have accepted Mr Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” Jacobs said in a statement published by the Guardian. “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.”
In his letter, Gianforte also wrote about the importance of the press and said that Jacobs was just trying to do his job.
“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,” he wrote. “I had no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.”
Letter to Guardian Reporter Ben Jacobs from Rep-elect Gianforte. Jacobs says he "accepted" the apology pic.twitter.com/OSCbzWKzIZ
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) June 8, 2017