Breitbart was founded on the premise that the mainstream media (a.k.a. Big Journalism) is a cabal of liberal sycophants who couldn’t report the truth if it hit them in the face. But on Wednesday, the right-wing news site looked like a pro-Trump newsletter that couldn’t report the truth if it grabbed one of their writers and tossed her to the ground.
On Tuesday night, Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields was walking alongside Trump’s entourage as they exited his golf club in Jupiter, Florida. Fields pointed her recording device toward the presidential candidate and asked if he still objected to the late Antonin Scalia’s attacks on affirmative action. Before Trump could answer, his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed Fields from behind and yanked “her down toward the ground like a ragdoll,” according to a witness who spoke with the Daily Beast. While Fields never saw her assailant, multiple reporters on the scene, including the Washington Post’s Ben Terris, identified him as Lewandowski.
Bruised and shaken, Fields recounted the incident to her boyfriend, the Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein, who promptly tweeted his thoughts on the matter.
When Breitbart’s PR consultant, Kurt Bardella, learned of the night’s events, he seemed more concerned with Weinstein’s juvenile tweeting than Lewandowski’s assault. Per the Daily Beast:
Fields soon received an aggrieved phone call from Bardella, telling her that Weinstein’s tweets were “juvenile,” and “immature,” according to sources, and advising her “to get your boyfriend under control.”
Bardella did, eventually, draft a statement calling for Lewandowski to apologize.
“It’s obviously unacceptable that someone crossed a line and made physical contact with our reporter,” said the statement, issued under the name of the outlet’s CEO and president, Larry Solov. “What Michelle has told us directly is that someone ‘grabbed her arm’ and while she did not see who it was, Ben Terris of The Washington Post told her that it was Corey Lewandowski. If that’s the case, Corey owes Michelle an immediate apology.”
But sources who spoke with the Daily Beast identified two problems with this statement. First, by the time it was written, Lewandowski had already told Breitbart editor Matthew Boyle that he had, in fact, manhandled Fields. Thus, “if that’s the case” seemed like an odd clause to include.
The second problem with the statement is that Terris had secured a meeting with Lewandowski on Wednesday, at which he planned to confront the campaign manager about Tuesday night’s incident. For this reason, Terris had requested anonymity in Politico’s original report on the matter. By identifying Terris as a witness in Breitbart’s statement, Bardella may have given Lewandowski a heads-up about the tough interview that awaited him. Hours after the statement was released, Lewandowski canceled his meeting with Terris.
While Fields did not comment for the Beast’s story, Breitbart, to its credit, published her own account of the event late Wednesday night.
“Even if Trump was done taking questions, Lewandowski would be out of line. Campaign managers aren’t supposed to try to forcefully throw reporters to the ground, no matter the circumstance,” she writes. “But what made this especially jarring is that there was no hint Trump was done taking questions. No one was pushing him to get away. He seemed to have been happily answering queries from my fellow reporters just a moment before.”
According to the Beast, Lewandowski did offer Boyle an explanation for his manhandling of Fields: He simply “didn’t recognize her as a Breitbart reporter, instead mistaking her for an adversarial member of the mainstream media.”