Montana congressman to work at wheelchair nonprofit after attack on reporter

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[July 31, 2017]  By Jenna Zucker

(Reuters) - U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte will perform community services at a Montana nonprofit that builds wheelchairs for children after pleading guilty to assaulting a reporter during his election campaign, local media reported on Sunday.

Gianforte was ordered to do 40 hours of volunteer work as part of his sentence for attacking Ben Jacobs, a correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper, on May 24, the day before a special election to fill Montana's sole congressional seat. He has a Nov. 28 deadline to complete the community service.

Gianforte, a technology executive elected to fill the seat vacated when Ryan Zinke was appointed U.S. Interior Secretary, will work with ROC Wheels, which builds custom wheelchairs for children, Steve Ette, director of Gallatin County Court Services, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Gianforte's altercation with the reporter was portrayed at the time as an example of the new toxicity of American politics. Critics of President Donald Trump say his strident criticism of the media has encouraged violence against journalists, while his supporters say many journalists are too aggressive and disrespectful.

Jacobs, a political reporter for the U.S. edition of The Guardian, said Gianforte had "body-slammed" him, breaking his eyeglasses, when he posed a question about healthcare during a campaign event in Bozeman.

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Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) speaks with reporters prior to a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S. on June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

After initially defending his actions, Gianforte later apologized to Jacobs and pledged to make a charitable contribution.

While imposing no jail time, Gallatin County Justice Court Judge Rick West also required Gianforte to complete 20 hours of anger-management counseling. The congressman has told the court he will see a Bozeman therapist.

Gianforte and representative of the court could not be reached on Sunday for further comment.

(Reporting by Jenna Zucker in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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