GASLIGHTING

Donald Trump Defends Corey Lewandowski With Abuser’s Handbook

From ‘Make America Great Again’ to ‘Abuse Excuses For Dummies.’

03.30.16 5:00 AM ET

If you thought there was a depth to which he would not sink, a sewer in which he would not roll, you were wrong.

For weeks, Trump and his mini-mes have unfurled magnificent lie after magnificent lie about a young reporter, Michelle Fields, who said she was strong-armed by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (of whose name I am ashamed to have memorized the spelling) as she attempted to ask the candidate a question after a Florida rally at Trump National Golf Club.

Lewandowski, a former D.C. insider and New Hampshire state police officer, immediately denied laying so much as a finger on Fields, despite a Washington Post reporter who knows him witnessing the incident and despite her photo of the bruises his hand left on her arm.

He took to Twitter, at one point tweeting a link to a guttersnipe website run by a banned social media troll with an alleged propensity for shitting on classroom floors. In a separate late-night post, he called her “delusional,” claimed the two had “never met” and that he “never touched” her.

In their effort to gaslight Fields, Trumplandia tried to present her to the world as a delusional, histrionic, attention-seeker prone to theatrics. A campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, pointed to an earlier incident involving police abuse during Occupy Wall Street as proof Fields should not be believed.

Maybe Hicks had not seen a published photograph that backs up Fields’s account of that incident. Or maybe she had. Maybe she simply didn’t care in a campaign that’s only mode seems to be attack.

While Lewandowski enjoyed the unequivocal support of his boss, who reportedly provides him with a rent-free Trump apartment in addition to a monthly salary of 20,000 eye-popping dollars, Fields’s then-employer – an in-the-tank-for-Trump “news” organization—ran a shabby “exposé” purporting to debunk their own reporter’s story.

Even after a video emerged that appeared to back Fields’s account, even as she filed a police report in Florida about it, Trump stood beside Lewandowski. If Trump had any class at all, he might have invited the journalist in for coffee and given his regrets. He might have said there’s no justifiable cause, under any circumstances, for anyone involved with his campaign to put hands on a reporter.

After all, Republicans embrace the notion of personal responsibility—right?

Well, not exactly. The fact is the buck never stops with the billionaire bloviator—at least never on his doorstep.

Wednesday, Trump has one more chance to get it right, after Florida police charged Lewandowski with simple battery. A new video, released by the Jupiter Police Department, shows Fields with an ink pen in her hand, trying to ask Trump a question, just as she’d said. And Lewandowski grabbing her, just as she’d said he had. It was taken from Trump’s own cameras, footage he and his security team knew existed and did not release of their own accord.

Instead of doing the right thing, the campaign and its surrogates went after Fields anew, pulling out the oldest, ugliest plays in the book of victim-shaming. It was a defense strategy most prevalent among rapists and domestic abusers. Once again, Trump and his gang aimed to bully their way through the news cycle.

Trump said Lewandowski was only trying to block Fields “and create a little room” and that she was “grabbing at” him. “The news conference was over,” he said, matter-of-factly. “She was running up and grabbing me, asking questions.”

“How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” Trump asked reporters assembled on his private jet after the Jupiter Police Department charged his campaign manager with simple battery, marking a new low in an election year that we’d hoped had hit rock bottom. “I’m not a lawyer.”

“If you’re going to get squeezed, wouldn’t you think she would have yelled out a scream or something if she has bruises on her arm?”

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Trump, who might as well have been reading a chapter out of “Abuse Excuses for Dummies,” argued that reporters likely “get treated a lot rougher than that on a daily basis.”

That Trump is polling badly among Republican women—47 percent of whom say they could not imagine casting a ballot for him—comes as no surprise, given his vulgar behavior. For him, there appears to be no target too small. He is a world-class prizefighter when it comes to punching down.

And he appears to harbor a special brand of malice for accomplished women.

The thrice-married serial philanderer claimed Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly must have been menstruating to ask such tough questions of him during a debate. He would be depressed too, he said of Rosie O’Donnell—who he infamously compared to a pig— if he looked like that. But, even for Trump, this felt like a bridge too far.

“It’s a sad day in this country when a man can be destroyed over something like that,” Trump complained. “Does that mean that I’m supposed to file charges against her?” he continued. “She was grabbing me.”

As for Lewandowski’s future with the campaign, “I don’t discard people,” declared the candidate whose catchphrase is, in fact, “You’re fired.”

Certainly, Trump has the unmitigated guile of a white-footed desert fox and the bravado of a carnival barker. Those skills have netted him a bevy of early primary state wins and, ultimately, may help him garner the Republican nomination. As with any candidate, there is a cap on how much support he can ultimately attract and he’ll have to hope that there is enough headroom to get him into the White House.

But, the fact that a man with Lewandowski’s lackluster career is employed by Trump speaks volumes.  That his behavior is excused and paved over says a lot about the kind of people who would inhabit a Trump administration. One has to question the discernment of a man who would hire a miscreant like Lewandowski in the first place. One has to question his commitment to civil liberties, including freedom of the press, and his stated devotion to “the women.”  

For his part, Lewandowski should be careful. Somebody might start talking to him in a language that he understands. And it might be a woman.