Montana Republican Who Roughed Up Reporter Wins House Seat

Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who has an upcoming court date for body-slamming a reporter on the eve of his special election to the House of Representatives, has won handily.

CNN was reporting that there had already been a lot of early voting—before the incident—but had also reported that the election was expected to have tightened, perhaps to within two or three percentage points.

CNN also pointed out in its reporting the recent spate of journalist run-ins with Republicans, including the reporter who says he was pinned against the wall by security guards for trying to ask a question of FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly.

During Fox News' coverage of the incident, it pointed out that three of its reporters had been eyewitnesses and confirmed the confrontation between Gianforte and Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.

Gianforte, who won with 50% of the vote to Rob Quist's 44%, according to the Montana Secretary of State, apologized by name to Jacobs in his acceptance speech. There had been growing pressure from Republicans for him to apologize.

Saying it was coming from "his heart," Gianforte said that "when you make a mistake, you have to own up to it… 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'm sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I'm sorry Mr. Ben Jacobs." He also apologized to the "Fox News team who were witnesses. That's not the person I am, and that's not the way I will lead in this state."

The apology was a pivot from the campaign's initial response to the body-slam charge, which was to blame the reporter. "It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ," a Gianforte spokesperson initially said of the incident, according to Fox News.

A number of Montana newspapers withdrew their endorsement of Gianforte after the incident, but neither that nor the incident affected the outcome.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was incensed at the suggestion that an apology was sufficient. "He should have been arrested," said Toobin in discussing it on air. He said the incident "can't be separated" from the President tweeting that journalists are 'the enemies of the American people.'" He said such rhetoric "leads directly to this kind of action."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.