Corey Lewandowski, the embattled manager of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was mostly unknown to national political observers before the 2016 elections.
But he is infamous to former co-workers at Americans for Prosperity, some of whom describe him as verbally abusive, unprofessional, and occasionally misogynistic.
And at least one Republican operative who has interacted with him in his current role said much of the same.
Lewandowski was AFP’s New Hampshire state director when he took over Ohio state operations for the Koch-backed advocacy operation in the summer of 2012. Several former AFP employees who worked with Lewandowski at that time describe him as a bully and said they were “flabbergasted” to learn that Lewandowski had gone from AFP to overseeing a presidential campaign.
“He was just a condescending, nasty brutish boor,” said Pat Maloney, an Ohio regional field director for AFP when Lewandowski took the reins. “In a position of real power, he would make H.R. Haldeman in the Nixon administration look like a Boy Scout.”
Maloney described Lewandowski’s management style as unusually aggressive, lacing his interactions with employees with expletives and calling individual staff members to berate them, even when they were not his direct reports.
When Maloney missed a conference call to attend to his ill grandmother, Lewandowski called him at his grandmother’s beside.
“My grandmother is literally dying, having Last Rites administered, and I get a call from Corey chewing me out, asking who the hell did I think I was missing this conference call,” he said.”
While his own dealings with Lewandowski were unpleasant, Maloney said he felt Lewandowski reserved his worst behavior for female employees. “There was definitely a misogynistic streak to this guy,” he said.
Lisa Bast, another Ohio regional field director at the time, said Lewandowski once threatened to “come really down hard” on her if she didn’t get 50 people to attend an AFP event in Akron.
After she missed a 7 a.m. conference call to prepare for the event, her phone rang.
“Corey gets on the phone and defames my character. He called me incompetent, called me a loser,” Bast said. “He called me a f**king b**ch, yelling, ‘I am going to fire your f**king ass!’”
Bast later organized another volunteer event closer to the election, which featured Republican strategist Dick Morris. As a part of the preparations, she had ordered 125 box lunches for volunteers who attended; but when Lewandowski decided the lunch shouldn’t be shared unless the volunteers also made calls for the phone bank, Bast said Lewandowski threw all 125 lunches in the garbage. “Corey said, ‘If they don’t phone bank they’re not getting f**king fed.’”
Bast and Maloney both left AFP after the 2012 elections, but Lewandowski remained.
According multiple AFP employees interviewed by Politico, Lewandowski’s treatment of some co-workers remained problematic, including a 2013 encounter with a female state director for AFP, whom he called a “c**t” in front of a group of AFP employees
A spokesman for AFP confirmed that Lewandowski did oversee state operations in Ohio in 2012, but declined to comment further in what he considered personnel matters.
It was at an AFP event where Trump reportedly met his soon-to-be campaign manager in 2014.
As the campaign began to staff up formally in the spring of 2015, Lewandowski had lunch at Trump Tower with Cheri Jacobus, a well-known Republican consultant.
Jacobus was there at the invitation of a friend affiliated with the super PAC supporting Trump, who had approached her about a possible job. She was surprised when Lewandowski showed up to the meeting, which Jacobus said eventually became a conversation about Jacobus joining the campaign as communications director.
But she said a second meeting with Lewandowski was all it took to convince her she wanted no part of the Trump campaign.
“Corey ends up yelling at me, like some unhinged kid, asking me all of these questions,” she said. “What would be your Snapchat plan? How would you do the launch? Why in the hell would you go to Hannity first?!’ I’m thinking, what am I even doing here?”
Jacobus said she never spoke to Lewandowski again. But when she later criticized Trump in an appearance on CNN in January of 2016, Jacobus said she became the target of both Lewandowski and Trump.
Lewandowski told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Jacobus had approached the Trump campaign for a job “and when she wasn’t hired clearly she went off and was upset by that.” Trump later tweeted about Jacobus directly. “@cherijacobus begged us for a job. We said no and she went hostile. A real dummy!”
Jacobus said she’s been harassed by Trump supporters ever since.
“Every day I get tweets saying ‘You’re a woman scorned’ or putting my face on Glenn Close’s body and calling me a bunny burner. It’s been hell,” she said. “It started with Lewandowski and Trump picked up on it. So either Trump is lying or Lewandowski lied to his boss.”
Lewandowski’s stormy tenure with Trump became headline news in March when he grabbed a female reporter for Breitbart News who was trying to question Trump, something he and Trump both denied.
Lewandowski has since been charged with simple battery for the encounter. Meanwhile, Jacobus has sent Trump and Lewandowski a letter from her lawyer warning them to cease and desist from making defamatory statements about her.
None of the drama in Lewandowski’s current job, including the battery charges, surprises many of the people who worked with him in the past.
“Typical Corey,” said a former AFP employee, who asked not to be named. “It didn’t surprise me. That’s not atypical at all.”
Bast said her greatest concern about Lewandowski is the fact that she think’s he’s never been held accountable for his behavior leading up to this. “He was a loose cannon,” said Bast. “He is what he is and he needs to be exposed for the person that he is.”