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Reporter’s attorney alleges Gianforte lying about assault, settlement

Posted at 3:54 PM, Oct 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-26 21:09:05-04

HELENA – An attorney for the reporter assaulted last year by U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte says the Montana congressman is continuing to lie about the incident, in violation of a settlement agreement, and wrote a letter this week asking Gianforte to “cease and desist” such comments.

“Please advise your client that he and his spokespersons need to stop, immediately and forever, telling lies about the assault … about your client’s `settlement agreement’ with Ben (Jacobs) or about any other aspect of this matter,” attorney Geoffrey Genth of Baltimore wrote to Gianforte’s attorney, Bill Mercer of Billings, on Thursday.

Genth, who represents Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, said Gianforte apparently misled the Missoulian editorial board last week about the details of the incident and the settlement reached with Jacobs.

A spokesman for Gianforte told MTN News Friday that the congressman’s June 7, 2017 letter of apology to Jacobs “speaks for itself.”

“Greg regrets what happened and has taken full responsibility for it,” the spokesman said.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in June 2017 for throwing Jacobs to the ground and punching him at a campaign event in Bozeman, on the eve of the May 25, 2017, special election when Gianforte first won election as Montana’s only congressman.

He wrote the June 7 letter to Jacobs apologizing and saying that Jacobs did not initiate any physical contact. Gianforte also agreed to make a $50,000 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists and Jacobs released Gianforte from any future liability.

Ben Jacobs
Guardian US reporter Ben Jacobs

The incident made national news again last week when President Trump, at a campaign rally in Missoula, praised Gianforte for assaulting Jacobs.

Four days before the rally, Gianforte met with the Missoulian newspaper editorial board.

The newspaper later reported that when asked about the assault, Gianforte said his initial report to police was how he recollected the event and that the settlement barred him from talking about the incident.

The letter from Jacob’s attorney said those statements aren’t true, because the settlement does not bar Gianforte from talking about the event and that his initial statements to authorities were a lie, because they said Jacobs initiated the contact.

“By way of his new falsehood about the `settlement agreement,’ Rep. Gianforte intended, during the last weeks before a contested election, to mislead the press and the electorate about his ability to respond to questions relevant to his candidacy,” Genth wrote.

Gianforte’s spokesman said the congressman wasn’t trying to mislead the Missoulian, and noted that the June 7 letter says Jacobs didn’t initiate any physical contact.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News