Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, who was elected to Congress the day after he was charged with assaulting a reporter, sent an apology letter to The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs on Wednesday, taking full responsibility for the attack.
“I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness,” Gianforte says in his letter, acknowledging that his behavior was “unprofessional, unacceptable and unlawful.”
Jacobs was covering the special election for the state’s lone House seat last month when he asked the millionaire Republican candidate a question about health care. According to Jacobs and a Fox News crew that witnessed the attack, Gianforte responded by putting both hands around Jacobs’ neck, slamming him into the floor and punching him.
Jacobs said Gianforte “body-slammed” him and broke his glasses. The candidate’s team issued a statement blaming the “liberal” reporter. The following day, Gianforte won the special election, despite being charged with misdemeanor assault.
Gianforte’s apology does not directly address why his campaign first blamed the reporter for the altercation. The letter does, however, say that Jacobs “did not initiate any physical contact” with Gianforte. “I take full responsibility,” Gianforte adds.
Gianforte said he was making a $50,000 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Jacobs has already donated money to the group from a GoFundMe account set up so he could buy new glasses.
The Guardian reporter will donate his broken glasses to the Newseum, at the Washington museum’s request.
Jacobs said he accepts the apology.
“I have accepted Mr. Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” Jacobs said in a statement. “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 acknowledged the “critical role” of journalists, and that First Amendment protections for the press are core to American democracy.
He asked to postpone his court date, and is now scheduled to appear on or before June 20, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. He faces a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Read Gianforte’s entire letter below.