A lawyer for The Guardian reporter who was thrown to the ground and punched by Greg Gianforte just before the Republican won a House seat in Montana last year has warned that his client may challenge the lawmaker’s settlement of an assault case because Gianforte keeps lying about the incident.
In recent comments to The Missoulian newspaper, Gianforte appeared to contradict his own confession, which was part of a plea deal he reached when faced with assault charges. He indicated last week to The Missoulian that reporter Ben Jacobs initiated the fight.
Jacobs’ attorney, Geoffrey Genth, demanded in a letter on Wednesday obtained by Politico that Gianforte “immediately cease and desist from further false and/or defamatory statements about Ben or transactions with Ben.”
In a controversial comment last week at a campaign rally in Montana, President Donald Trump hailed Gianforte as “my kind of guy” for body-slamming Jacobs last year after the reporter asked him a question about health care. Several people heard the confrontation, and Gianforte’s enraged shouts as he attacked Jacobs were captured on audio tape (see above).
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, paid a fine and was sentenced to community service and anger management classes. He also apologized to Jacobs and donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists in exchange for the reporter’s agreement not to sue. That could now be in jeopardy.
In an interview with The Missoulian last week, Gianforte was asked why he initially lied about the incident by saying that Jacobs attacked him first. According to the newspaper, Gianforte didn’t concede that he had misrepresented what happened, saying, “The statement I gave was my recollection of what occurred.”
He also said he was bound by the settlement deal not to talk about details of the assault, which isn’t true, according to Genth. The lawyer accused Gianforte of misleading the “press and electorate about his ability to respond to questions relevant to his candidacy.”
Genth’s letter, to Gianforte’s attorney William Mercer, included a copy of the lawmaker’s signed letter of admission to Jacobs that he attacked the reporter. It states: “You did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you. I had no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.”
Genth said Gianforte’s “continued lying is unacceptable and actionable.”
His letter to Mercer concluded: “Please advise your client that he and his spokespersons need to stop ― immediately and forever ― telling lies about the assault … [and] about your client’s settlement agreement … Ben reserves all rights, including the right to seek rescission” of the settlement.
Gianforte’s office did not immediately respond to the HuffPost’s request for comment.