There's no defending Republican congressman-elect Greg Gianforte's assault of a reporter on the eve of the Montana May 25 special election.
But a thinly disguised smear job of the incoming representative published this week by the Associated Press seems totally uncessary.
On Friday, the global newswire pushed a brief, 123-word report titled, "Gianforte calls for civil politics after assaulting reporter."
The entire purpose of the article is clear: To serve as a sort of "gotcha." It's obvious in the headline and the story's lede that the AP wanted to characterize Gianforte's call for civility as somewhat laughable. After all, the story seems to suggest, who is he to preach about unity?
This is how the AP report appeared originally Friday afternoon:
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana's incoming congressman is calling for civility in politics as he heads to Washington with a conviction for assaulting a reporter.
Greg Gianforte will be sworn in next week as the state's only congressman following the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise.
He spoke to The Associated Press Friday in his first national interview since winning last month's Montana special congressional election.
The Republican technology entrepreneur pleaded guilty this week to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs the night before the May 25 election.
He declined to answer questions about the altercation and said he cannot erase what happened but did all he could to take responsibility.
Gianforte added his voice to the calls for civility, saying parties must respect each other and find common ground.
That's it. That's all that was included in the AP's original write-up of Gianforte's first national interview since winning his election.
For additional context, it's worth noting the AP report came a few days after a deranged gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, opened fire on GOP lawmakers in Alexandria, Va., leaving Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and lobbyist Matt Mika in critical condition.
It's obvious what's going on here: The AP asked Gianforte about Wednesday's attack, and he responded with a fairly diplomatic and routine answer, saying that both sides ought to cool it. The AP decided then to print a story characterizing Gianforte as some sort of double-talking hypocrite.
Come on now.
The initial version of the AP report wasn't even about something new! It was almost entirely about things that happened earlier this week and on May 25th! The write-up didn't even feature a verbatim quote!
The original story was entirely about the incoming congressman's assault charge, to which he plead guilty earlier this week. He was sentenced Monday to 40 hours of community service and at least 20 hours of anger management therapy. He was also hit with a $385 fine for roughing up Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
The AP updated the report later Friday afternoon to add some meat to the story. Great, but a little too late. The global newswire had already tipped its hand.