Greg Gianforte, Montana Republican Congressman-elect, has been eating a bit of crow since he got into a physical altercation with a reporter in May. Today, Gianforte was sentenced to forty hours of community service and twenty hours of anger management. This is in addition to a $385 fine. Gianforte pled guilty to misdemeanor assault.
The reporter in question is Ben Jacobs, who touched a nerve when he repeatedly asked Gianforte a healthcare policy question he didn’t want to answer. An enraged Gianforte “body slammed” Jacobs, breaking his glasses in the process. Gianforte denied the body slam allegation at first, but later admitted that he did, indeed, body slam the Guardian reporter.
After his court date, Gianforte told the press that the body slam was a mistake and “not a proud moment.”
“When you make a mistake you’ve got to take full responsibility, and that’s what I’ve done today, and I look forward to putting this behind me. Now I look forward to going to work in Washington.”
Gianforte is set to be sworn in as the newest member of the House of Representatives. It will prove difficult, if not impossible, to shake the association with body slamming.
The slam transpired on the night of May 24, backstage at a campaign event. It was the night before the special election that was set to fill Ryan Zinke’s empty Senate seat. Gianforte had been pressed by reporters to take a clear stand on GOP Obamacare replacement legislation, as his position had remained opaque.
When Jacobs didn’t drop the issue after a couple of weak deflections, Gianforte snapped into a rage, body slamming him and then yelling at him repeatedly to “get the hell out of here.”
There is no known video of the altercation, but Fox News producers who were present corroborate Jacobs’s version of the story. Gianforte initially claimed it was Jacobs’s fault, for having an “aggressive” manner.
Remarkably, Gianforte’s enormously embarrassing gaffe did not cost him the election. Gianforte did apologize to Jacobs during his victory speech, though, and pledged to donate fifty thousand dollars to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The relationship between the media and politicians has been, at times, contentious. As it should be. In some perverse way, it’s nice to see that the relationship isn’t always quite so cozy as it may appear.
Gianforte’s political career is still question marks. Will he be able to step out of his own Randy Savage shadow?