You may remember Greg Gianforte from May, when he assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs the night before the special election that made him Montana’s sole representative in the US House. That was awesome. Jacobs had asked him a question about the Congressional Budget Office’s score of the Republican health care plan, which left Gianforte no choice but to throw Jacobs to the ground and punch him. Then the candidate issued a press release saying Jacobs had assaulted him. Then he went into hiding for about 24 hours, until the election was over and he had been declared the winner. Then he apologized.
As part of his apology, Gianforte agreed to sit down with Jacobs for an interview at some future date. In the weeks that followed, he insisted that he took full responsibility for his actions. Through his attorneys, he also fought the booking process tooth and nail. Although he pled guilty to misdemeanor assault, his legal team argued that he should not be fingerprinted or photographed, since he was never arrested.1 After a judge ordered him to submit to booking anyway, Republican County Attorney Marty Lambert said he would not make Gianforte’s mug shots public until Montana Attorney General Tim Fox—also a Republican—ruled on whether they were confidential. Montana courts have repeatedly ruled that they are not, and Fox has consistently deferred to those opinions. He has yet to answer Lambert’s question, though, and Gianforte’s mug shots remain unavailable to the public, despite requests from multiple news outlets for their release.
Last week, Jacobs issued a statement claiming that Gianforte has refused to sit down with him for the interview he promised. I think all of us in Montana who heard this news thought the same thing: Hasn’t Greg Gianforte suffered enough? He already went through the indignity of having hundreds of millions of dollars, getting elected to Congress, and punching a reporter in the face. Must we now hold him to the words of an apology he clearly did not mean?
People say all sorts of things when they’re framed for a crime that they later turn out to have committed. If we wanted to be dicks about it, we could pretend Rep. Gianforte meant it when he said he was sorry. But in order to believe that, we would have to believe that he lied about what happened, expended untold billable hours fighting the booking process, and reneged on his offer to sit down with Jacobs, all because he’s genuinely sorry. That’s just too farfetched. I call on the people of Montana to end their hypocrisy and stop pretending that Gianforte’s promise was anything but empty words. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!