The Slatest

Why Greg Gianforte’s Apology Was So Worthless

Phony contrition, thy name is Gianforte.

Janie Osborne/Getty Images.

It has been widely reported that Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte apologized to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in his victory speech on Thursday night. That apology, though, appears to be incomplete.

“When you make a mistake,” Gianforte said to his supporters, “you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way.” Oh? “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,” he continued.

So here we have an apology for the act itself: The incident in which Jacobs (full disclosure: a friend of mine) asked Gianforte for his thoughts on the latest Congressional Budget Office score of the House health care bill, and Gianforte, according to both Jacobs and several witnesses, responded by grabbing his neck and slamming him to the ground.

What Gianforte’s statement does not include is an explicit apology for his and his campaign’s subsequent violation of “the Montana way,” his apparently blatant lies about what took place and attempt to excuse his violent and allegedly criminal behavior. Gianforte’s press team, shortly after the incident, made up a story involving Jacobs as the provocateur. “It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ,” the statement read.

The Gianforte campaign rode out the last 24 hours of the race in opposition to the straw man of an overly aggressive liberal reporter who got what he deserved. It activated the necessary media allies. Rush Limbaugh, on his Thursday show, described how the “manly, studly” Gianforte took down “a Pajama Boy journalist,” a “125-pound wet dishrag reporter,” and your “average Millennial man today.” One caller said that if every Republican candidate threw a reporter to the ground, “it would increase my chances exponentially of voting for them.” On Fox News, one analyst spoke of the “snowflake reporter.” The guy who loses his shit when asked about a CBO score, though: Now there’s a man’s man. In any event, this diversion worked and Gianforte is going to Congress, seemingly a member in good standing of the Republican caucus! And he didn’t even have to offer a full apology.

What would a full Gianforte apology, in accordance with his description of “the Montana way,” look like? It would cover both the incident and then the smears used to limit the damage. He might also apologize for the way his campaign staff anonymously bragged to reporters about all of the money they’d raised following the incident. Perhaps he’ll get around to that more thorough accounting of his misdeeds during his court appearance.