June 8 (UPI) — Montana congressman-elect Greg Gianforte agreed to donate to a press organization in order to prevent a lawsuit from a journalist he admitted attacking.
Gianforte, a Republican, defeated Democratic opponent Rob Quist in a special election to fill Montana’s congressional seat on May 25. On Wednesday he admitted that the day before the election he body slammed Ben Jacobs after The Guardian reporter asked questions about healthcare.
Gianforte apologized in a letter to Jacobs and took responsibility for the incident, which reversed an earlier statement in which Gianforte accused Jacobs of attacking first.
“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable and unlawful. As a candidate for office and as 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 apology reads.
Gianforte also pledged to make a $50,000 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a global non-profit organization.
In a statement issued later Wednesday by spokesman Shane Scanlon, Gianforte said, “I have taken full responsibility for my actions and both publicly and personally apologized to Mr. Ben Jacobs. Ben has accepted my apology and we are both ready to move on.”
The agreement forestalls a potential civil suit against Gianforte by Jacobs or his employer. Jacobs will not receive any money as part of the agreement.
Gianforte faces a criminal misdemeanor assault citation for the scuffle. On Wednesday, Gallatin County Justice Judge Rick West granted an extension, requested by Gianforte’s attorneys, to appear in court to face the charge.
Gianforte has until June 20 to appear in court.