June 7, 2017; New York Times
The episode unfolded at the site of Mr. Gianforte’s final rally in a hotly contested special House election. Before the event in Bozeman, Mont., Mr. Jacobs approached him and asked his thoughts about Republicans’ health care bill. When he pressed for an answer, Mr. Jacobs said, he was “body-slammed.”
“I’m sick and tired of you guys!” Mr. Gianforte told Mr. Jacobs, according to an audio recording by Mr. Jacobs, shortly after the sounds of a physical struggle and a crash. “The last time you came here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here.”
Mr. Jacobs replied, “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.”
When Greg Gianforte bodily assaulted a Guardian reporter the night before he was elected to the House of Representatives, it was one more incident in an especially virulent run of active GOP hostility against the press—or, at least, the non-conservative press. On Wednesday, Gianforte pledged to, in settlement of the case, donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
CPJ ensures the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are attacked, imprisoned, killed, kidnapped, threatened, censored, or harassed.
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Reporter Ben Jacobs also received an apology letter, wherein Rep. Gianforte characterized his actions as “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,” Mr. Gianforte wrote. “You did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you.”
Jacobs responded by statement, saying, “I hope the constructive resolution of this incident reinforces for all the importance of respecting the freedom of the press and the First Amendment and encourages more civil and thoughtful discourse in our country.”
Though the settlement will allow Gianforte to avoid any civil action, he still faces a criminal misdemeanor charge of assault.
It is interesting to reflect on the appropriateness of this settlement method only days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared that the Department of Justice would no longer seek such third-party payments as part of its settlements.—Ruth McCambridge