Montana’s U.S. House Representative-Elect Greg Gianforte plead guilty on Monda, June 12th to misdemeanor assault. The victim of the assault was Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
Animosity between the media and politicians is nothing new, especially lately. President Trump has even gone as far as labeling the media an “enemy of the state”. However, Montana Representative Greg Gianforte took things to a new level on May 24th.
On May 24th, the eve of election day, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs approached Gianforte at a BBQ thrown on the representative-elects behalf. Jacobs questioned Gianforte about the austere American Health Care Act. An irate Gianforte refused to answer. After Jacobs persisted, Gianforte became violent. The politician then reportedly lifted Jacobs in the air and violently body slammed the reporter to the ground.
Jacobs immediately called the police who cited Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault. The entire ordeal was captured on Jacobs recording device and was released to the media soon after. Gianforte countered that Jacobs was aggressive and invaded his personal space. However, there were several other Fox News journalists in the room who witnessed the event and corroborated Jacobs’ version of the story.
The political fallout for the Republican candidate was swift. Gianforte was inundated with bad press for an entire news cycle. Nevertheless, Gianforte won the election. This is partly due to the fact that Montana is a early-voting state and a majority of the votes were already in and accounted for.
Despite Gianforte’s victory and his apology to Jacobs during his victory speech the representative was forced to face his charges in a Montana courtroom. Unsurprisingly, Gianforte elected to plead guilty in order to put the matter behind him.
According to Whitney Bermes, a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the judge initially gave Gianforte four days in jail, where under the terms of a jail work program he would be able to spend two of those days working.
However, after consulting with prosecution and defense lawyers, the judge changed the initial sentence minutes later, Bermes reported: “NO jail time for Gianforte. But has to do 40 hours of community service, 20 hours anger management.” He will also have to pay a $300 fine. In Montana, the maximum penalty for misdemeanor assault is a $500 fine and six months in jail, as Montana Public Radio’s Corin Cates-Carney reported.
Part of the deal was that Jacobs wouldn’t object if Gianforte entered a plea of “no contest,” which would not formally be admitting guilt.
In a statement to the court, Jacobs said he hoped the sentencing would send a message about the “important role of the free press and the need to help heal our political system.” He adds:
“While I have no doubt that actions like these were an aberration for Congressman-elect Gianforte personally, I worry that, in the context of our political debate, they have become increasingly common. In recent years, our discourse has grown increasingly rancorous and increasingly vile. This needs to stop.”
Montana Public Radio’s Whitney adds that after the assault on Jacobs, “state and national Democratic Party officials called on Greg Gianforte to resign the U.S. House seat he won.” His swearing-in date has not yet been set.