On Tuesday, a conservative reporter accused a Trump campaign staffer of grabbing her arm so hard he left bruises, an allegation that appears to be borne out by photographic evidence. In response, the Trump campaign has been waging an obvious campaign to discredit her, insinuating she made the whole thing up and referring to her as an “attention-seeker” on Twitter—even though the staffer allegedly already admitted manhandling her.
Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, by her own account and that of an eyewitness, was trying to ask Trump a question after a press conference Tuesday when his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed her arm so hard he almost yanked her to the ground.
Breitbart—which enjoys a cozy relationship with the Trump campaign—responded that night with a subdued, skeptical statement suggesting that if the event had occurred as Fields claimed, Lewandowski should apologize.
One reason to doubt the story, Breitbart suggested, was because Fields initially believed she had been grabbed by a Secret Service agent; Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, who says he witnessed the incident, was the first to correct her.
“As security parted the masses to give him passage out of the chandelier-lit ballroom, Michelle Fields, a young reporter for Trump-friendly Breitbart News, pressed forward to ask the GOP front-runner a question. I watched as a man with short-cropped hair and a suit grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the way. He was Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 41-year-old campaign manager,” Terris wrote today in an article published by the Washington Post. “Fields stumbled. Finger-shaped bruises formed on her arm.”
But just hours after Terris’ report went live, the Trump press secretary Hope Hicks issued a statement claiming there were no witnesses to Fields’ alleged attack, which the statement strongly implied Fields was lying about.
Here’s the statement, emphasis ours:
The accusation, which has only been made in the media and never addressed directly with the campaign, is entirely false. As one of dozens of individuals present as Mr. Trump exited the press conference I did not witness any encounter. In addition to our staff, which had no knowledge of said situation, not a single camera or reporter of more than 100 in attendance captured the alleged incident.
This individual has never met Corey, nor had the only reporter that supposedly identified him. There are often large crowds aggressively seeking access to Mr. Trump and our staff would never do anything to harm another individual, while at the same time understanding that Mr. Trump and his personal space should never be invaded.
This person claims she does not want to be part of the news, and only report it, however if that was the case, any concerns, however unfounded they may be, should have been voiced directly first and not via twitter, especially since no other outlet or reporter witnessed or questioned anything that transpired that evening. We leave to others whether this part of a larger pattern of exaggerating incidents, but on multiple occasions she has become part of the news story as opposed to reporting it. Recall she also claimed to have been beaten by a New York City Police officer with a baton.
Doubling down on the campaign to discredit Fields’ account is Lewandowski himself, who sent out two tweets today accusing Fields of being an “attention seeker.”
Strangely enough, The Daily Beast reports Lewandowski admitted grabbing Fields to Breitbart Washington political editor Matthew Boyle, claiming he thought Fields was “an adversarial member of the mainstream media,” rather than a Breitbart reporter.
And just twenty minutes ago, Politico published a transcript from an audio recording that supports Fields’ and Terris’s accounts.
Terris: “You OK?”
Fields: “Holy sh*t.”
Terris: “Yea he just threw you down.”
Fields: “I can’t believe he just did that that was so hard. Was that Corey?”
Terris: “Yeah, like, what threat were you?”
Fields: “That was insane. You should have felt how hard he grabbed me. That’s insane. I’ve never had anyone do that to me from a campaign.”
Terris: “Can I put that in my story?”
Fields: “Yeah, go for it — that was really awful. That’s so unprofessional.”
Terris: “He really just almost threw you down on the ground.”
That the incident occurred seems certain. That the Trump campaign is lying about it by trying to discredit Fields also seems certain. That Breitbart would prefer to keep Trump on its good side, too, seems certain. But why anyone would work for a publication that would hang its bruised employee out to dry—that’s a question to think about.