Donald Trump is maintaining the innocence of his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was arrested March 29 and charged with simple battery for forcefully grabbing a reporter.
Following a March 8 press conference in Jupiter, Fla., Michelle Fields, at the time a writer for the conservative website Breitbart, tried to ask Trump a question as he was leaving. Lewandowski allegedly grabbed Fields’ arm and pulled her away, leaving bruises.
When news of the incident started to spread, Lewandowski tweeted at Fields, saying, "you are totally delusional. I never touched you." But security footage of the event released by the Jupiter Police Department March 29 appears to show Lewandowski grabbing Fields.
(video from the Washington Post)
Despite the recent video, Trump said Lewandowski didn’t misrepresent what happened. Rather, it’s Fields who is being deceptive, he said.
"(Fields) said she went to the ground, or something to the effect of she almost went to the ground," Trump said at a March 29 CNN town hall. "She was in pain. She went to the ground. When she found out that there was a security camera, and that they had her on tape, all of a sudden that story changed. She didn't talk about it."
Did Fields change her story on what happened between her and Lewandowski? It appears not. We couldn’t find an example of her publicly retelling what happened since the second week of March when the story first unfolded. And since the security footage became public March 29, Fields has not yet given an interview.
We tried to reach Trump and Fields and did not hear back.
At the CNN town hall, Trump said Fields’ initial claim was that she fell to the ground or that she almost fell to the ground. It was the latter.
"I was jolted backwards," Fields wrote March 10. "Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost fell to the ground, but was able to maintain my balance. Nonetheless, I was shaken."
The Washington Post’s Ben Terris witnessed the incident and wrote a similar account the same day.
"As security parted the masses to give him passage out of the chandelier-lit ballroom, (Fields) pressed forward to ask the Republican front-runner a question," Terris wrote. "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."
Lewandowski and the Trump campaign immediately denied Fields’ accusation.
"The accusation, which has only been made in the media and never addressed directly with the campaign, is entirely false," spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement. "As one of the 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."
Fields stood by her account of what happened in a March 14 interview with Fox’s Megyn Kelly.
"This is a campaign that continues to lie," she said. "I never wanted it to get this way. Those bruises will heal. My problem is the smearing of my name, my reputation."
Following the incident, Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak published a report where he questioned whether it was actually Lewandowski who grabbed Fields rather than another man. Claiming Breitbart was standing with the Trump campaign instead of its own employees, Fields and several other Breitbart employees resigned.
Since the security footage came out in the past couple days, though, Pollak has admitted that his report was incorrect.
Trump, conversely, said the footage "exonerates" Lewandowski "totally." It doesn’t; it looks from the video as if he did grab her — and the police report says the video is consistent with what Fields alleged.
Trump also criticized Fields for allegedly grabbing him to ask a question and for holding a pen. While somewhat expected for a reporter to have a pen handy, Trump said it could have been a "little bomb" or a knife.
Trump said that when Michelle Fields "found out that there was a security camera, and that they had her on tape, all of a sudden that story changed."
We see no evidence that Fields’ story about her altercation with Trump’s campaign manager has changed. She gave an initial account and hasn't backed off of it.
We rate Trump’s claim Pants on Fire.