Lawyers for the reporter assaulted by U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte on the eve of a special election last May sent the Republican a cease and desist letter Monday.
The letter demands Gianforte and members of his office stop making “false and defamatory statements” about Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
The congressman’s spokesperson, Travis Hall, recently told news outlets that Gianforte never misled police in the immediate aftermath of his assault on Jacobs, and anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken.
But according to documents released earlier this month, the congressman did indeed mislead investigators about the assault, saying the “liberal media” was trying to make a story and claiming Jacobs initiated physical contact.
“He grabbed my wrist, he spun, and we ended up on the floor. So he pulled me down on top of him,” Gianforte said in an audio recording from that initial investigation.
Multiple witnesses contradicted Gianforte’s account and said the then-Republican candidate initiated the assault and body-slammed the reporter. Gianforte later plead guilty to misdemeanor assault and admitted that he was the one who made physical contact first.
University of Montana law professor Anthony Johnstone says the cease-and-desist letter is putting Gianforte’s team on notice. If they continue to say the congressman never misled investigators, it could lead to a potential civil lawsuit.
"For allegedly false statements by representative Gianforte or his office that damage the reputation of Mr. Jacobs who as a reporter trades on his truthfulness and reliability,” Johnstone says.
Representatives for Gianforte were unable to comment before deadline, and reporter Ben Jacobs refused to comment on the record.