Photo by Cristobal Herrera/EPA
Video footage released by C-SPAN on Friday afternoon appears to show Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski reaching for reporter Michelle Fields, who accused him of assaulting her earlier this week as she tried to ask Trump a question.Trump and his campaign have denied the allegations and have sought to discredit Fields personally since she made the allegations on Wednesday. Fields, who is a reporter for Breitbart, a conservative news site that is extremely friendly to Trump's campaign, filed charges against Lewandowski with police in Jupiter, Florida, on Friday.
Fields says that on Tuesday night after a Trump press conference, someone "grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down" after she asked Trump a question about affirmative action. Fields said that she didn't see who grabbed her, but Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, who was standing next to her, immediately told her it was Lewandowski."I almost fell to the ground, but was able to maintain my balance. Nonetheless, I was shaken," Fields wrote in her own account of the incident.Terris, who witnessed the altercation, wrote about it for the Post as well. "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. "Fields stumbled. Finger-shaped bruises formed on her arm."Related: Trump Plays Nice: Candidates Focus on Policy Over Attacks in Republican DebateVideo released by C-SPAN on Friday afternoon appears to show Lewandowski reaching for Fields on Tuesday night, as both reporters described.
There is also audio of the incident, which was released anonymously to Politico.Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the allegations on Thursday, saying in a statement that she did not witness anything like Fields' claims at the event and that "no other outlet or reporter witnessed or questioned anything that transpired that evening," although Terris' account had already appeared in several news outlets. Hicks sent out a similar statement again on Friday afternoon, before the C-SPAN video was posted online.
After the Trump campaign initially denied the reports, Fields posted a photo of the bruises on her arm to her Twitter account.
Hicks, and then Lewandowski, took the campaign's denial one step further by calling Fields' personal history and reporting into question. "Recall she also claimed to have been beaten by a New York City police officer with a baton," Hicks said in her original statement. There's actually video of that incident, which occurred during the Occupy Wall Street protesters and appeared on Fox News at the time.Related: Why Some Hasidic Jews Are Loving Donald Trump's CampaignLewandowski also questioned Fields' account of being beaten at the Occupy protest. And he called Fields an "attention seeker," posting a 2015 story from GOT News accusing former Rep. Allen West of sexually assaulting reporters, including Fields. The author of that story, Charles C. Johnson, has frequently been accused of questionable reporting and fabulism.
Trump personally denied the assault allegations after a debate on Thursday night, telling reporters: "I don't think [Lewandowski] did anything."When another reporter followed up, Trump doubled down and accused Fields of lying. "The Secret Service was surrounding everybody. They said nothing happened. Everybody said nothing happened. Perhaps she made the story up. I think that's what happened," he said.
Fields' own employer has flip-flopped in its support of her. After initially releasing a statement asking for Lewandowski to apologize if the allegations proved true, the website took an even stronger stand on Thursday. "Breitbart News stands behind Michelle Fields. … Trump's suggestion that Fields made up the incident Tuesday evening contradicts the evidence, including her own injuries, an account from Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, and audio recorded at the scene," Breitbart CEO Larry Solov wrote in a statement.Solov also wrote that Trump's campaign acknowledged that Fields was likely grabbed, just not by Lewandowski.But after seeing images of the scene shortly before the alleged altercation occurred, which showed a security officer standing between Lewandowski and Fields, however, Breitbart published a new story Friday saying that is it "unlikely that Lewandowski was the person who caused her injuries."Related: Why It's No Surprise a Journalist Got Choked at a Donald Trump Rally"Given the similarity in appearance between Lewandowski and the security official, and given the fact that Lewandowski was walking on the other side of Trump from where Fields was at the time, the possibility of mistaken identity cannot be ruled out," Breitbart's Joel B. Pollack wrote. "Indeed, given Lewandowski's adamant denials (coupled with statements inappropriately impugning Fields's character), it is the likeliest explanation."
Terris stood by his story, telling the Post's media blogger: "I saw what I saw."Although Trump held a press conference in Florida this morning and the repeated instances of violence at his rallies came up in last night's CNN debate, not one reporter asked the candidate about Fields during either event. After the debate, when CNN turned off its cameras and viewers moved on, several reporters approached Trump backstage and asked about the incident.This is hardly the first Trump event that has lead to allegations of physical violence. But it is the first time that a member of Trump's campaign has been accused of perpetrating it.Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new C-SPAN video. The Secret Service has also not yet responded to a request for comment on the incident.Follow Sarah Mimms on Twitter: @SarahMMimms