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What We Know: Breitbart Reporter And Alleged Assault At A Trump Event

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Tuesday's press conference in Jupiter, Fla., where Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, seen to the left of Trump, says "someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down."
The Washington Post/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Tuesday's press conference in Jupiter, Fla., where Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, seen to the left of Trump, says "someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down."

Donald Trump's campaign has spent an unusual amount of time this week answering questions about violent incidents.

The latest involves an allegation by reporter Michelle Fields of conservative site Breitbart that she was assaulted by someone who was ID'd by another reporter as Trump's campaign manager.

Here's what we know:

What Fields reported

Fields said that someone "grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down" after a press conference Tuesday. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris witnessed what happened and identified that someone as Trump manager Corey Lewandowski, reporting that the altercation left Fields with "finger-shaped bruises" on her arm. The Daily Beast also reported that "sources said Lewandowski acknowledged to Breitbart's Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, that he did manhandle Fields." And on Thursday, Politico posted the audio of the alleged incident.

Fields also spoke about the incident to ABC News on Thursday, saying, "Honestly, it's been really hurtful, because obviously nobody wants to be touched and violated like that." She was also asked what she would want to tell Trump about the incident and responded, "I would just ask him to put himself in my shoes and imagine if I was his daughter."

Criminal complaint

The Jupiter Police Department said in a statement that it is investigating an alleged battery that happened Tuesday at the Trump event after a police report was filed Friday morning. The department wouldn't release additional information because the investigation is active, but it appears to be about the incident — conservative news site IJ Review reports that the report was filed by Fields against Lewandowski.

Trump campaign denies incident

The Trump campaign forcefully denied Fields' story, saying in a statement that "the accusation, which has only been made in the media and never addressed directly with the campaign, is entirely false. ... 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."

In the spin room after Thursday night's GOP debate, Trump himself also said, "they said nothing happened, everybody said nothing happened. Perhaps she made the story up, I think that's what happened."

The campaign's statement also questioned Fields' credibility: "We leave to others whether this is part of a larger pattern of exaggerating incidents."

Lewandowski then called Fields an "attention seeker" in a tweet linking to a 2015 article that alleges former Rep. Allen West assaulted Fields.

Breitbart claims mistaken identity

Breitbart initially said it "stands behind Michelle Fields" and that "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."

But Friday morning the organization said that after reviewing video footage it still believes the incident happened but does not believe Lewandowski was behind it.

"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."

Ben Terris: 'I saw what I saw'

The Washington Post reporter who ID'd campaign manager Lewandowski is standing by his assertion. "I saw what I saw," he told the Post's Erik Wemple blog, adding that he had his "eyes trained on Corey Lewandowski" during the incident.

Other physical incidents

Videos circulating on social media this week also showed a protester at a Donald Trump rally being punched in the face by an audience member as he was being led out of a rally Wednesday in Fayetteville, N.C.

Rally attendee John McGraw was charged with assault and disorderly conduct in Wednesday's incident, according to a post on Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler's Facebook page.

Pointing to Trump's own rhetoric ("Knock the crap out of him, would you?"), CNN's Jake Tapper asked if Trump might be responsible for encouraging violence.

"I mean, I see it. There is some anger," Trump responded. "There's also great love for the country. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake."

That apparent assault came on the heels of yet another altercation showing a woman being pushed at a Trump rally last week, as well as another story of a reporter having a physical run-in with Trump's security and staff.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amita Kelly is a Washington editor, where she works across beats and platforms to edit election, politics and policy news and features stories.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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