More allegations surface of reporters bullied by Bachmann campaign

Dylan Stableford

As The Cutline reported earlier this week, Michele Bachmann's 2012 campaign is developing a reputation for bullying reporters that get too close to the Minnesota congresswoman--and now more reports of staffers clashing with members of the media have surfaced.

Politico says that there have been at least five "unusually hostile encounters with the traveling media" in the last two months. That includes Marcus Bachmann's tussle with CNN's Don Lemon in Iowa last weekend, and the "manhandling" of ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross in South Carolina after Ross tried to ask the Tea Party hopeful about her migraine headaches.

Earlier this week, the Bachmann campaign did not deny Lemon's account. "Our number one priority is the safety and protection of Michele Bachmann," Alice Stewart, the press secretary for the Bachmann campaign, said in a statement. "It was just too crowded. We were just trying to get her out in order for her to go to other events at the fair and that's what we were doing."

"In another incident that did not make the air," Politico reports, "a camera captured Fox News correspondent Steve Brown telling a bodyguard in Iowa, 'Do not put your hands on me. Don't ever do it again.'"

Stewart issued a virtually identical statement about that allegation to Politico.

"The No. 1 priority for us every single day we step out on the campaign trail is the safety and security of Michele Bachmann," Stewart said, noting that the bodyguard Brown referred to is a retired Secret Service agent.

"He's guarded presidents and vice presidents and knows exactly what needs to be done," she said. "When he gives a warning to whoever it may be, the person needs to heed the warning."

Also in Iowa, Are Tagvold Flaten, a credentialed Norwegian reporter following the Bachmann campaign on a writing grant, told Politico that one of Bachmann's bodyguards threatened to break his arm as he was trying to photograph her on a CNN set.

The Bachmann camp, however, flatly denied Flaten's version.

Three additional American reporters declined to comment on the record to Politico, fearing their access might be restricted. But Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, says he witnessed several incidents of relative thuggery. "This behavior started in June," Lizza wrote on Twitter. "I saw Marcus shoulder a CNN reporter who got too close to Michele in Waterloo."

The "most heavy-handed thing" he saw, Lizza wrote, was Stewart forcing a reporter to erase 30-sec video clip of Bachmann on a tarmac "by threatening to yank credential [and] kick reporter off trip. Stewart told reporter [Bachmann] personally wanted reporter gone." The reason?  The clip "might have shown Bach calling her plane the 'Barbie jet,' [though] it didn't."

When asked about Lizza's allegations by The Cutline, Stewart did not respond directly. "As I have said, our number one concern is the safety and security of Michele Bachmann," she said.

Lemon wrote in an e-mail to Politico that Ed Rollins, Bachmann's campaign manager, later apologized to him, and "promised to correct" the bullying conduct.

But Stewart said there was no such apology.  "He wasn't apologizing for what we did," Stewart told Politico. "He said, 'I apologize if you were offended by it.' He stands by 100 percent the actions of our security team."