Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte on Wednesday apologized to the reporter he is charged with assaulting the night before last month's special congressional election in Montana.
"I write to express my sincere apology for my conduct on the evening of May 24," Gianforte wrote to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. "My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful. 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."
He said he is making a $50,000 contribution to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit organization, following the incident.
"Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you," Gianforte wrote.
Later Wednesday, Jacobs releasesd a statement saying he has "accepted Mr. Gianforte's apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements."
"I hope the constructive resolution of this incident reinforces for all the importance of respecting the freedom of the press and the First Amendment and encourages more civil and thoughtful discourse in our country," he said.
A judge has given Gianforte until June 20 to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court to face a misdemeanor assault charge. Documents filed Tuesday by former U.S. Attorney William Mercer and Bozeman attorney Todd Whipple says they are in settlement talks with prosecutors.
Jacobs said he was "body slammed" by Gianforte on May 24 while he was trying to ask him a question about a health care bill.
Gianforte won Montana's only congressional seat, despite the last-minute fracas at his Bozeman campaign headquarters. He is not expected to be sworn in until later this month.