Republican US representative-elect Greg Gianforte on Wednesday pledged to donate US$50,000 to a journalism advocacy group as part of an out-of-court settlement he reached with the reporter he physically assaulted on the eve of his election.
Gianforte, a wealthy technology executive who won Montana’s lone seat in the US House of Representatives in a special election on May 25, also issued a public apology to the reporter, Ben Jacobs, that went further than his previous statements of contrition.
Jacobs, a political correspondent for the US edition of the Guardian newspaper, accused Gianforte of “body-slammming” him and breaking his eyeglasses, when the reporter posed a question about healthcare during a campaign event in Bozeman, Montana.
An audio recording of the incident, in which Gianforte was heard shouting, “Get the hell out of here” and “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” was played repeatedly on cable news television afterward.
Gianforte’s campaign initially suggested Jacobs instigated the altercation by barging into the candidate’s office and shoving a recording device in the politician’s face as he was preparing for a TV interview.
However, in a letter of apology to Jacobs, Gianforte said his “physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable and unlawful.”
“Nothwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me and I had no right to assault you,” he added.
Gianfote also promised in the letter to contribute US$50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit group promoting press freedom worldwide.
Gianforte still faces a misdemeanor assault charge lodged by the local sheriff’s office.
Additional, more serious criminal charges could be brought once prosecutors review the evidence, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert said.
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