BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Republican Greg Gianforte, the newly-minted representative-elect for Montana's at-large congressional district, apologized to the reporter he allegedly assaulted here less than 36 hours ago.
In his acceptance speech before several hundred supporters, Gianforte said he "made a mistake" in the way he treated Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, ahead of a campaign stop on Wednesday. He apologized to Jacobs by name.
"Last night I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can’t take back," Gianforte said in his first public appearance since the incident. "I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did, and for that I’m sorry."
Gianforte's remarks Thursday evening came in stark contrast to the statement his campaign released in the hours after Jacobs alleged that the candidate had "body-slammed" him to the ground after he had asked him questions about the GOP health care bill:
In the hours since then, a Fox News crew that witnessed the hearing backed up Jacobs' account of the incident and House Speaker Paul Ryan called on Gianforte to apologize. Most significantly, Gianforte was cited by local police for misdemeanor assault, and the Republican now must contend with a June 7 court date.
Gianforte's supporters shouted words of support as he apologized. "You are forgiven," one responded. "We love you, Greg," another said. One man in the crowd joked that Gianforte should have retaliated more against the reporter.
Here are Gianforte's full remarks about the incident:
“Sometimes hard work is born out of hard lessons. Last night, I learned a lesson. I need to share something from my heart here, and I just ask you to bear with me.
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. 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. I also want to apologize (to) the Fox News team that was there, and I’m sorry to each one of you that we had to go through this. That’s not the person I am and it’s not the way I’ll lead in this state.”