It was announced Thursday that controversial Republican special election candidate Greg Gianforte won the battle over Montana's sole House district, thus defeating the Democratic nominee (folk singer Rob Quist) and sustaining the district's red status. The victory came in spite of assault charges that were filed against Gianforte in response to his physical assault of a Guardian reporter just one day prior.
Gianforte openly addressed the altercation in his victory speech, where he appeared to accept responsibility for the violence, condemned his own actions, and publicly apologized in front of the crowd of supporters who had attended his rally in celebration of the election results.
"When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it. That's the Montana way. Last night I made a mistake and I took an action that 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 am sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way and for that, I am sorry Mr. Ben Jacobs."The 56-year-old politician's sobered confessions came as a surprise to many of his critics and fans alike, as they acted as a direct reversal of his campaign team's public stance on the matter which had been issued less than 24 hours before.
"Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave."
The statements were released to the press through Shane Scanlon, a spokesman for the Montana Republican who went on to further criticize the behavior of the journalist in the moments leading up to the confrontation. The accusations that a physical disturbance had occurred were met with no denial, with Scanlon instead suggesting that Gianforte's role had not been as deliberately aggressive as Jacobs alleged.
"After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."Gianforte has since appeared to have abandoned the story entirely, focusing instead on communicating self-accountability and remorse. In his most recent public statements, the newly-elected businessman made efforts to reassure Montana voters who may have been concerned by the incident that the behaviors displayed will not reflect in his future public service efforts.
"That's not the person I am, and that's not the way I'll lead this state. Rest assured, our work is just beginning, but it does begin with me taking responsibility for my own actions."A new Washington Post report examining Gianforte's past relationship with the news media was released amidst a stream of election day updates on Thursday, the findings quickly raising some eyebrows online. According to the article, some of Montana's local publications were quick to withdraw support and actively condemn the Republican's history with the free press in the wake of the recent controversy.
One publication cited was the Helena Independent Record, a local paper which had previously endorsed Gianforte. In light of the recent incident, the newspaper rolled back all support for the candidate in a scathing release which described a history of implied violence directed at reporters.
"In the past, he has encouraged his supporters to boycott certain newspapers, singled out a reporter in a room to point out that he was outnumbered, and even made a joke out of the notion of choking a news writer, and these are not things we can continue to brush off."[Featured Image by Janie Osborne/Getty Images]