Greg Gianforte, the Montana congressman-elect who is accused of “body slamming” a Guardian reporter, issued an open letter apology to Ben Jacobs of the Guardian for an incident that occurred on the eve of a special Montana election. The evening ended with Mr. Jacobs in the hospital and assault charges against, now congressman-elect Greg Gianforte.
Congressman-elect Gianforte’s apology directly contradicts the statement made by his campaign, that Mr. Jacobs aggressively “shoved a recorder” in the candidate’s face. Audio from that same recorder, and statements from fox news journalists, as described in a Fox News article by Alicia Acuna, quickly told a different story — that Gianforte body slammed Mr. Jacobs to the ground, breaking his glasses.
Gianforte’s campaign tried to smear Mr. Jacobs by blaming it on “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist”. An attempt to tap into the right’s angst against the liberal media and save votes on the eve of the election. In light of this, Gianforte’s letter released on Wednesday takes full responsibility for his actions and contradicts his campaign’s statement saying “Notwithstanding, anyone’s statements to the contrary, you [Jacobs] did not initiate any physical contact with me”.
The congressmen-elect also pledged in his letter, a $50,000 contribution to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent non-profit that promotes press freedom and protects the rights of journalists worldwide.
The full letter can be read here
The Congressman-elect was originally scheduled to appear in court this week, but an extension has been approved and he’s scheduled to appear on June 20th in Montana court.
The letter and charitable donation comes as part of a settlement agreement for any potential civil action by Mr. Jacobs.
Considering these events, one must question the rhetoric occurring towards mainstream journalists today. In the past, if a candidate for public office exhibited this behavior, it would be expected that he would lose the election. However, some supporters of Gianforte were asked about the incident and they applauded the assault saying he is “my kind of politician”. Montana went on to elect a candidate with an assault charge despite the behavior and clear evidence supporting Mr. Jacobs’ statements. This kind of reaction aligns with the broad national sentiment Trump supporters have been expressing towards the liberal media. Fueled by the “fake news” and “leakers” tweets, our national debate is being splintered into disarray and distrust of the media. And, at times, fueling effective anger into votes.