Shortly after winning the race for Montana’s lone congressional seat, Greg Gianforte apologized to the reporter he was charged with assaulting a day before.
The Republican candidate’s campaign was rocked after he was cited on misdemeanor assault charges for a Wednesday altercation in which a reporter for The Guardian newspaper, Ben Jacobs, claimed Gianforte "body-slammed" him, an incident caught on audio tape and witnessed by other journalists.
Gianforte, whose official victory against Democrat Rob Quist was called by the Associated Press shortly after midnight on Friday EST, gave Jacobs a personal apology.
“When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it," he said at a victory party in Bozeman, Montana. "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," he said.
The comments served as a sharp reversal for Gianforte and his team, who remained mum on the subject for most of Thursday, and who shortly after the incident released a statement calling Jacobs’ actions in seeking to interview the candidate "aggressive."
"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," Gianforte spokesman Shane Scanlon said.
He added: "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."
Jacobs had called for an apology from the GOP candidate during an appearance on CNN earlier Thursday.
"[Apologizing] would be the civilized thing to do when one adult acts — physically assaults someone else, an apology would be in order," he said early Friday morning, adding that physical altercations were "not an appropriate way for human beings to interact with each other."
Gianforte stressed to his supporters that his recent behavior would not be reflected in his upcoming work in Washington.
"That’s not the person I am, and that’s not the way I’ll lead this state," he said. "Rest assured, our work is just beginning, but it does begin with me taking responsibility for my own actions.”