While it doesn't erase what he did, Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte's apology to the reporter he assaulted on the eve of his election was impressive.
He didn't make excuses. He admitted he attacked the reporter for doing important and necessary work. And he took responsibility for his "unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful" behavior.
Gianforte also agreed to donate $50,000 to the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists. Though that may be a pittance for the multi-millionaire businessman turned politician, it will go a long way toward advancing the organization's goal of protecting journalists worldwide.
Granted, all of this was included in a civil settlement with the reporter, so it's hard to tell whether Gianforte's response was sincere or just a legal strategy intended to head off a potential lawsuit.
Since the victim has accepted Gianforte’s apology, however, we see no reason why we can't do the same.
But the apology and donation are not enough to right this wrong -- and we will soon see how sorry Gianforte really is.
Despite his civil settlement, Gianforte is still facing a criminal charge. And regardless of what his attorneys say, Gianforte needs to enter a guilty plea, which is something Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert expects him to do.
Though the victim said he would not object to a no-contest plea, which would allow Gianforte to potentially avoid some collateral consequences by declining to admit guilt, that would not be enough. He has already admitted his guilt outside of court, so the responsible thing for him to do is admit it in court too and accept the consequences of his actions.
Gianforte also needs to admit and explain why his campaign lied. His written apology to the reporter directly contradicts a statement from his campaign the night of the attack, which makes us skeptical of any official messages coming from his office, and Montanans deserve to know how the incorrect statement became public and if it could happen again.
To those who will inevitably label this editorial an attack by the "liberal media," keep in mind that we supported Gianforte's candidacy up until the night before his election. And he was quick to use our endorsement to his advantage by touting it in TV commercials and other campaign materials.
We had no choice but to rescind that endorsement because of Gianforte's actions, without supporting any of his opponents.
And although it will take a lot for Gianforte to regain our trust, what he does next will speak volumes about whether his top priority is his constituency or himself.