Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte (R-MT) might have won a contentious special election last month, but he will now be forced to carry out 40 hours of community service after he body slammed a reporter shortly before voters opted to send him to Capitol Hill.
On Monday, a judge ruled that Gianforte – who previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges and had a 180-day jail sentence deferred – would also have to complete 20 hours of anger management counseling and pay a $385 fine in relation to the incident.
Just before last month’s special election, Gianforte found himself at odds with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs when he asked the technology entrepreneur his opinion about the Republican party’s healthcare proposal.
While Gianforte and other sympathizers initially denied the reports, the scuffle was caught on audio recording by other reporters who insisted that the congressman-to-be had indeed body slammed a reporter.
Jacobs did not sue Gianforte. Instead, he struck a deal with him that compelled Gianforte to write a letter of apology and donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“When you make a mistake, you’ve got to take full responsibility and that’s what I’ve done today,” Gianforte told reporters after his hearing. “I look forward to putting this behind me.”
After then-Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) was confirmed by the Senate to serve as United States Secretary of the Interior, the GOP selected Gianforte as their nominee. He successfully squared off against Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks in the general election even after news of the assault charge made national headlines.
In his victory speech, Gianforte was contrite: “Last night, I made a mistake,” he said. “I took an action I can’t take back. And I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did. And for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reported that way. And for that, I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.”