(JTA) — Republican congressman-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana has apologized for body slamming a Jewish reporter for The Guardian, a London-based newspaper, on the eve of a special election.
Gianforte late on Wednesday also announced a $50,000 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte wrote in a letter to reporter Ben Jacobs, as part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims, according to the Guardian. “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.”
The letter also said: “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.”
Gianforte still faces criminal charges of misdemeanor assault over the altercation. He faces a maximum $500 fine or six months in jail if convicted. He had been scheduled to appear in Gallatin County justice court by June 7 but was granted an extension until June 20, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported on Wednesday.
The incident involving Gianforte, a tech millionaire who is endorsed by President Donald Trump, and Jacobs, occurred on March 24, hours before the opening of the polls for a special election to fill the seat held by Ryan Zinke, who was named secretary of the interior by Trump.
Jacobs, who had been covering the candidate for several weeks, asked Gianforte a question about the Republican health care plan before being attacked, according to the Guardian. In April, Jacobs reported on Gianforte’s financial ties to Russian companies sanctioned by the United States. Gianforte’s wealth is estimated at $65 million to $315 million, according to The Guardian. He lost in his bid for governor last year. He ran for Congress against Democratic folk musician Rob Quist .
Jacob’s glasses were broken in the attack. A crowdfunding campaign to replace them raised more than $7,500, which Jacobs had requested be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists. His glasses were donated to the Newseum, a museum in Washington, D.C., dedicated to journalism, at the request of the museum.
Jacobs, who grew up in the Baltimore area, is a graduate of Grinnell College and has a law degree from Duke University. Before joining The Guardian in 2015, he worked at the Daily Beast. In April 2015, Jacobs wrote a humorous piece for The Guardian offering tips for those attending their first Passover Seder.