GOP Congressional candidate assaults Guardian U.S. reporter
Greg Gianforte, the Republican nominee in a special congressional race in Montana, physically assaulted Guardian U.S. reporter Ben Jacobs while Jacobs tried to interview him at his campaign headquarters in Bozeman, MT. A crew of Fox News journalists who witnessed the attack described it as brutal and unprovoked:
At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, "I'm sick and tired of this!"
Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.
To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies.
Following the attack, which left Jacobs’ glasses broken, police arrived to interview witnesses and an ambulance took Jacobs to the hospital, where he got an X-ray on his elbow. A few hours later, Gallatin county sheriff Brian Gootkin announced that Gianforte had been cited for misdemeanor assault.
“The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault,” Gootkin said in a statement.
Responding to reports that he had donated $250 to Gianforte’s campaign in March, Gootkin confirmed that he had made the donation but said that “this contribution has nothing to do with our investigation which is now complete.”
Gianforte’s campaign initially released a statement claiming that Jacobs was to blame for the incident.
After winning the election on May 25, Gianforte publicly apologized to Jacobs during his victory speech.
On June 8, as part of a settlement with Jacobs, Gianforte pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists — which used the money to help fund the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker — and wrote a lengthy apology to Jacobs:
I write to express my sincere apology for my conduct on the evening of May 24. 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.
Notwithstanding anyone's statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you. I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.
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 I acknowledge that the media have am obligation to seek information. I also know that civility in our public discourse is central to a productive dialogue on issues. I had no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.
Greg Gianforte's letter of apology to Ben Jacobs
On June 12, Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. He was sentenced to community service and anger management classes, but did not face any jail time.
Gianforte was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on June 21 and has already filed for re-election in 2018.