Newly elected US Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) will likely avoid jail time after assaulting a reporter the night before his election this May.
On Monday, Montana Judge Rick West sentenced Gianforte to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management that he must complete by November 28, according to Whitney Bermes, a reporter at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. "My intent was not to have you sit in jail," West told the new Congress member. “This is not my intent that you spend four days in jail. I don't think that will serve the community or the taxpayers."
Gianforte was also given a 180-day “deferred jail sentence,” which can be dismissed if he doesn’t violate the terms of the sentencing, according to the Daily Beast.
On Thursday, with a misdemeanor assault charge pending, Gianforte sent a letter apologizing to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for “body-slamming” him at a campaign barbecue, breaking his glasses and sending him to the hospital for an X-ray on his elbow. Gianforte also pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Gianforte attacked Jacobs after the reporter asked about the Congressional Budget Office score of the Republican health care bill, an analysis that indicated that changes to the bill would still result in 23 million people losing health insurance in the next 10 years.
"My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte’s letter said. “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."
Jacobs accepted the apology, but Gianforte hasn’t apologized for lying about the altercation. After the incident, which began with Jacobs asking for the Montana Republican to clarify his position on the health care bill, Gianforte blamed Jacobs and accused the reporter of instigating the fight. Gianforte only retreated from his account after it was contradicted by a separate Fox News crew that had witnessed the incident.
Gianforte still hasn’t provided an explanation for why he dissembled about the assault. Perhaps more importantly, we still don’t know if he supports Paul Ryan’s health care bill, which the Senate is drafting its own version of this week.