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We've called for the truth.

But apparently, Montana's lone U.S. representative, Greg Gianforte, cannot handle the truth.

Really, this shouldn't be a surprise.

Wait, wait, wait. Before you accuse the "liberal media" of just taking another swipe at Gianforte, hear us out.

Last week, an attorney for The Guardian's Ben Jacobs, a reporter who was assaulted by Gianforte, sent a letter to the congressman asking him to cease-and-desist in repeating the lie that Jacobs initiated the attack.

Some statements by Gianforte's own staff implied that Jacobs may have provoked or engaged in the tussle on May 24, the night before the special election in which Gianforte beat Democrat Rob Quist.

Regardless of what you may think about Gianforte, Jacobs or the media, what the lawyer is asking is for the congressman to adhere to the truth. That's not what we say. It's not what Jacobs says. It's what Gianforte said in court. In other words, Jacobs' lawyer just wants Gianforte to be held to his own words.

In court in June, Gianforte admitted that he attacked Jacobs.

"(Jacobs) did not initiate any physical contact with me," Gianforte said in Gallatin County District Court while pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault.

This back-and-forth issue continues to be a topic (and, quite frankly, a distraction) for Gianforte. That's happened because Gianforte has never really taken full responsibility for what happened.

A raft of documents recently released by the Gallatin County District Court showed that Gianforte misled investigators, using the excuse that the liberal media was trying to make a story of the situation.

But a Fox News camera crew witnessed Gianforte assaulting Jacobs. Investigators found evidence of the assault and later, in court, Gianforte admitted his role.

Yet when asked about the incident and a statement released from his own campaign, he has never taken full responsibility for his actions — always side-stepping questions, and refusing to talk about the statement that turned out to be a lie.

Gianforte has repeatedly said he's dealt with the issue, but gives no specifics. In other words, he talks about accountability, but demonstrates none.

That's why this issue of Jacobs continues to return to the headlines: because Gianforte has never owned his own inexcusable actions, except when compelled to in court, while facing charges of assault.

Gianforte is trying to take the easy way out — blame the liberal media. He wouldn't be the first politician to try such a maneuver. Instead, we're not particularly worried about what folks believe about Ben Jacobs. If you really wondered what happened, an audio tape clip of Gianforte going full-beast on Jacobs sets that record straight.

Members of the Montana media, The Billings Gazette included, have asked for a more detailed explanation of what happened on that night, but Gianforte has declined, saying he's taken accountability for his actions; as if saying it made it so. But part of accountability is transparency and honesty, two things noticeably absent in this case. We can't help but think that Gianforte's admission in court was a matter of expediency, not an expression of sincerity.

And while we're certainly sympathetic to Jacobs who did not deserve the attack, we're more worried for Montanans who depend on Gianforte's voting and transparency to represent us in Congress.

We're concerned that a man who seems to have such a hard time being accountable for his own personal actions might also be willing to mislead us on any number of issues.

If Gianforte refuses to tell the truth about this criminal case, how can his constituents trust his word?

-- The Billings Gazette

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