The saga of newly elected Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte and The Guardian report Ben Jacobs is all too well known at this point. Before ultimately winning the hotly contested election, the wealthy businessman turned politician allegedly body-slammed the reporter at a campaign event. After initially denying Jacobs’ account of the incident, however, Gianforte eventually caved and formally apologized — especially after a Fox News crew that was interviewing captured audio of the moment and reported what they saw to others. Yet seeing as how Jacobs pressed charges against the congressman, what will happen now?
According to The Guardian and others journalists present in the Bozeman, Montana courtroom Monday morning, Gianforte won’t be doing any jail time for his violent outburst. He will, however, have to perform a sizable chunk of community service, undergo anger management classes, and pay a small fine. “Although it was not my intention to hurt him, I understand Ben was injured,” the representative told the court of what happened. Jacobs, who was also present, recalled the Gianforte campaign’s initial attempt to smear him publicly, saying the candidate “lied in a defamatory public statement.”
Reporting for the Bozeman Chronicle, Whitney Bermes noted the precise details of the congressman’s sentence: 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management classes, and a whopping $385 fine.
After saying he hoped to interview Gianforte, and that the congressman would become a “strong advocate for a free press and for the first amendment,” Jacobs commented at length on the “national ramifications on our politics and our culture” the incident entails:
“While I have no doubt that actions like these were an aberration for Congressman-elect Gianforte personally, I worry that, in the context of our political debate, they have become increasingly common. In recent years, our discourse has grown increasingly rancorous and increasingly vile. This needs to stop.”
At the end of the hearing, Gianforte addressed Jacobs to apologize again and express his interest in the possibility of discussing matters with him in the near future. “I just want to say I’m sorry,” he said, “and if and when you’re ready, I look forward to sitting down with you.” Whether or not such a meeting will actually happen remains to be seen, but who knows? Maybe the still-relevant David Letterman could mediate,