The night before the special election in Montana, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte was thrust into the national limelight explosively after he body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs at a campaign event in Bozeman, breaking his glasses and putting him in the hospital.
Gianforte, who did not even apologize for the incident until after he won, pushed back his court date for misdemeanor assault so he would have time to file for re-election.
But the criminal charges were only part of what worried Gianforte. The Guardian reports that, as part of an agreement to avoid a civil lawsuit, Gianforte made a $50,000 contribution to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and issued a fresh apology letter.
On the surface, this letter looks like responsible, boilerplate damage control. But buried in the middle of it is an interesting confession:
GIANFORTE APOLOGY letter to Ben Jacobs pic.twitter.com/7PiZb4on4E
— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) June 8, 2017
I write to express my sincere apology for my conduct on the evening of May 24th. 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.
In this passage, Gianforte is essentially admitting he is a liar. Because the only claim Jacobs had “initiated physical contact” with Gianforte came from Gianforte’s own campaign statement just after the incident:
Tonight as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.
This version was immediately contradicted by both audio footage and reporters from Fox News who witnessed the incident. After Jacobs respectfully asks Gianforte his position on the GOP health care repeal bill, Gianforte body-slammed Jacobs and screamed, “I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!”
But the instant this became a formal legal action against Gianforte, with attorneys scrutinizing his every statement, he knew he would not be able to get away with his lie.
Republicans may be willing to stick by Gianforte after his act of violence. But with his admission that he lied about the incident, Gianforte knows he will come to Washington shrouded in ignominy.