MILWAUKEE — Donald Trump insisted his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, did nothing wrong when he yanked a reporter away from him at a campaign event earlier this month and said he would stand by his adviser in the wake of an assault charge.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Trump disputed that Michelle Fields, then a Breitbart News reporter, had been injured during her March 8 run-in with Lewandowski after a press conference in Jupiter, Fla. — in spite of photos that she later tweeted of bruises on her arm. And he repeatedly suggested it was Fields who was the aggressor in the situation — not his campaign manager, who he insisted had been merely protecting him from her.
“She’s not a baby,” Trump insisted. “She was grabbing me. Am I supposed to press charges against her?”
Trump repeatedly criticized Fields, insisting she had evaded Secret Service and walked toward him holding a pen that could have been “a little bomb.” He said she had broken the rules by trying to ask him a question when the press conference was over — even though he had paused to take other questions from members of the media, including from this reporter.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement that he said came from a Breitbart News reporter during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, March 29. (Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
And he mocked Fields’ alleged injuries, pointing out that she had touched him too. At one point, Trump grabbed his arm in mock pain. “Oh, my arm is hurting,” Trump said sarcastically. “Anderson, my arm is just killing me.”
Lewandowski was charged with simple battery Tuesday for the alleged assault. Jupiter police released footage from a security video of the altercation that clearly shows the Trump aide pulling Fields back — contradicting claims by him and the campaign that he had never touched her.
But Trump insisted the video exonerates Lewandowski and repeatedly said he would be “loyal” to his campaign manager, even though he admitted the scandal has been a distraction for his campaign.
“The problem is everybody dumps people when there’s a sign of political incorrectness,” the Republican presidential hopeful said. “It would be so easy for me to terminate this man, ruin his life, ruin his family — he’s got four beautiful children in New Hampshire — ruin his whole everything and say, ‘You’re fired.’ OK, I’ve fired many people, especially on ‘The Apprentice.’”
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, center, is seen allegedly grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields in this still frame from video taken March 8. (Image: Jupiter Police Department/Handout/Reuters)
But he added, “I stick up for people when they’re right.”
Trump’s rivals did not feel the same. Both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who were questioned separately at the CNN town hall, said they would have fired Lewandowski.
But they did agree on one thing: Trump, Cruz and Kasich all backed off an earlier pledge to support whoever becomes the GOP presidential nominee.