The campaign for GOP front runner Donald Trump is flat-out denying that a reporter for a conservative news outlet was roughly grabbed and nearly knocked down by Trump’s campaign manager, according to ABC News.
Michelle Fields was among reporters covering a press event in Florida on Wednesday when she tried to ask Trump a question as he passed her, according to her boyfriend, Daily Caller reporter Jamie Weinstein, and a Washington Post reporter who witnessed the incident. At that point her arm was grabbed and she was almost knocked to the ground by Corey Lewandowski.
Fields was reporting for Breitbart, a conservative website that has been supportive of Trump.
“The accusation, which has only been made in the media and never addressed directly with the campaign, is entirely false,” writes Hope Hicks, in a statement to ABC News. “As one of dozens of individuals present as Mr. Trump exited the press conference I did not witness any encounter.”
But Washington Post reporter Ben Terris witnessed the incident and recounted it Thursday. In his report, Terris recounted a shocked, distraught Fields who had finger-shaped bruises on her arm as a result of the incident.
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.
Fields stumbled. Finger-shaped bruises formed on her arm.
“I’m just a little spooked,” she said, a tear streaming down her face. “No one has grabbed me like that before.”
She took my arm and squeezed it hard. “I don’t even want to do it as hard as he did,” she said, “because it would hurt.”
Despite the detailed account from Terris, Hicks’s statement personally attacks Fields, criticizing her for a tweet about the incident written by Weinstein.
“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 (sic), especially since no other outlet or reporter witnessed or questioned anything that transpired that evening,” Hicks wrote. “We leave to others whether this is part of a larger pattern of exaggerating incidents… Recall she also claimed to have been beaten by a New York City police officer with a baton.”
Fields covered the Occupy Wall Street protests for the Daily Caller in 2011 — and reporters being caught up in the violence between police and protesters was not uncommon. Reporting from the Daily Caller at the time and a photograph posted by Weinstein seems to indicate Fields’ account is accurate. She can be seen being knocked down by baton-wielding police.
Michelle getting pushed down by police during the Occupy Wall Street protests. Trump campaign serial liars pic.twitter.com/oNptBzNkC9
— Jamie Weinstein (@Jamie_Weinstein) March 10, 2016
“The police officers were beating the protesters with batons, and were also beating the media,” Fields told the Caller in 2011. “They hit Direna and me with batons. They hit other members of the press in order to get them to move out of the street…. When I fell to the ground I said at one point, ‘I’m just covering this! I’m covering this!’ And the officer just said, ‘Come on, get up, get up,’ before pulling me up by my jacket.”
Fields also noted that protesters were helpful to her. She and the photographer accompanying her were not seriously hurt.
Despite the reportage from the field, circumstances and photograph that make Fields’ Occupy Wall Street claims plausible, Lewandowski further attacked Fields publicly, accusing her of “attention seeking.”
Daily Caller reporter assaulted by NYPD during ‘Occupy’ protests — professional reporting or attention seeking? https://t.co/FqOQQMvNcy
— Corey Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) March 10, 2016
Facing physical danger at Trump rallies has now become a routine activity for protesters and increasingly, journalists covering them. Trump has long engaged in insulting reporters doing their jobs at his events, calling them names and encouraging his rally-goers to jeer at them.
Incidents at his rallies are attracting the attention of authorities. TIME photojournalist Chris Morris was put in a choke hold and slammed to the ground last month by a Secret Service agent in an incident the Department of Homeland Security is investigating.
On Thursday, a Trump supporter was charged with assault for punching an African-American protester in the face during a North Carolina rally.