House Speaker Paul Ryan may have been the only high-ranking Republican to say that Greg Gianforte, the Montana congressman-elect charged with assaulting a reporter, needed to apologize. But Gianforte heeded the call Wednesday night.
Gianforte — who body-slammed The Guardian’s Ben Jacob’s after he asked a question about Trumpcare at a final campaign rally — formally apologized for his behavior and promised to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The apology and money come as part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims from Jacobs. Gianforte wrote in a letter to Jacobs published by The Guardian:
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.
Gianforte also addressed claims, which his spokesperson advanced after the altercation, that Jacobs had been the aggressor in the situation.
“Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” Gianforte continued. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”
Acknowledging the “critical role that journalists and the media play in our society,” Gianforte also noted that he had “no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy.”
In mid-May, the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of Republicans’ second attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, which found the bill would still leave 23 million more people uninsured than under the current U.S. healthcare system.
That’s what Jacobs asked Gianforte about the night before the hotly contested Montana special election, which he still won.
Gianforte’s thoughts on the budget office’s numbers remain unclear.