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Montana Rep.-Elect Gianforte Apologizes to Reporter Ben Jacobs for Assault

Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana apologized to the reporter he allegedly body-slammed and said he will give $50K to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Image: Greg Gianforte Accepts Congratulations in Bozeman
Representative elect Greg Gianforte accepts the crowds congratulations during his victory speech after winning the special congressional election May 25, 2017 in Bozeman, Montana. FileColter Peterson / Reuters File

Republican Montana Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte on Wednesday apologized to a reporter that he body slammed on the eve of last month’s special election, admitting his conduct was "unprofessional, unacceptable and unlawful."

"Notwithstanding anyone's statement to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you," Gianforte said in a letter to reporter Ben Jacobs. "I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility."

Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian newspaper accepted the apology. Gianforte also said in the letter dated Wednesday that he will make a $50,000 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Gianforte won the May 25 special election to take Montana’s single U.S. House of Representatives seat, which was vacated by Ryan Zinke, who was nominated and confirmed as Interior Secretary.

Gianforte also apologized to Jacobs while declaring victory a day after the special election. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

The letter of apology and donation comes as lawyers for the businessman successfully sought an extension in the criminal case. The motion says that the parties are exploring a settlement.

Gianforte's latest apology appeared to acknowledge that a statement put out by his campaign spokesman just after the incident claiming Jacobs grabbed Gianforte's wrist and spun away sending them both to the ground, and which labeled the reporter a "liberal journalist," was false.

Jacobs said in a statement that "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," Jacobs said.

CORRECTION (June 8, 2017, 12:51 a.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Gianforte. He is the congressional representative-elect for Montana; he is not yet the representative.