You can believe Donald Trump’s campaign manager, or you can believe your own lying eyes.
New video that surfaced Friday casts serious doubt on Corey Lewandowski’s heated denials that he grabbed Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields by the arm Tuesday night and violently yanked her away from the Republican presidential frontrunner as the candidate was leaving his victory party/news conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla.
The C-SPAN video, which shows Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, appearing to lean his body toward Fields and reach in her direction before the camera’s view is obstructed, came to light on the same day that Breitbart News’s longtime public relations consultant, Kurt Bardella, quit as company spokesman.
“If you’re representing a client, you have to be 100 percent behind what they’re doing, and it reached a point where I just wasn’t,” Bardella told The Daily Beast, adding that he sent a letter of resignation to Breitbart president and CEO Larry Solov. “I didn’t think that in good faith I could represent them to the best of my ability, and the most appropriate thing to do was to resign.”
Bardella has spent the past week in the increasingly untenable role of trying to defend Breitbart’s strange handling of the Fields incident and its aftermath.
Breitbart’s senior managers, Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon and editor in chief Alex Marlow, offered what many saw as only tepid support for their reporter while publishing stories that seemed to back Lewandowski’s version of events.
On Thursday, for instance, Breitbart posted a story that appeared to question Fields’s account of the incident, citing footage from various cable and broadcast networks in which her encounter with Lewandowski could not be seen.
On Friday, the Trump campaign provided to Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple a screenshot of an email exchange between Lewandowski and Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle.
In the exchange, Lewandowski complained about Wednesday’s Daily Beast story, which reported that “sources said Lewandowski acknowledged to Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, that he did manhandle Fields.”
The story continued: “Lewandowski’s explanation to Boyle, said these sources, was that he and Fields had never met before and that he didn’t recognize her as a Breitbart reporter, instead mistaking her for an adversarial member of the mainstream media.”
“This is totally false,” Lewandowski wrote. “You and I have not spoken on the phone in weeks and you know that’s the truth.”
Boyle responded: “I know that. Of course it’s false. I had nothing to do with this and I never said to anyone what he reported here so I don’t know how that happened. Anyway, we’re going to respond shortly.”
However, the Daily Beast has yet to receive any complaint from Trump’s campaign or Breitbart over the substance of its original story.
Fields, who suffered bruises on her left forearm and has filed a criminal complaint alleging misdemeanor battery against Lewandowski with the Jupiter police department, confirmed on Friday that The Daily Beast accurately portrayed her late Tuesday night conversation with Boyle about his communications with Lewandowski concerning the incident.
On Friday night’s installment of Fox News's The Kelly File, Fields elaborated in a damning account.
“After this had happened I called my editor [Matthew Boyle], I told him what had happened,” she told Megyn Kelly, according to a transcript provided by Fox News. “I didn’t want to file a police report. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because, you know, I didn’t want to be all over the press and I certainly was worried about my job. What would happen if I went to the police.
“I told my editor and he called Corey and he spoke to him, and Corey said that he did it. He did not deny it. He said that he didn’t realize that I was a Breitbart reporter. Hope Hicks, who is Donald Trump’s spokeswoman, asked for my cell phone number and I was told that I was going to get an apology.”
The apology never arrived.
Boyle didn’t respond to an email seeking comment, although he tweeted that he intended to post his own story about the situation, which subscribes to Lewandowski’s version over his own Breitbart News colleague’s.
Bardella, noting he has repped Breitbart for the past two years, explained his resignation as cumulative decision. “It really wasn’t just one thing. There wasn’t a conversation or a specific event by itself,” he said. “It really was just, for me, more of an aggregate of realizing that this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.”
Trump has suggested that Fields fabricated the incident. “Nothing happened. This was, in my opinion, made up,” he told reporters in the spin room after Thursday night’s Republican debate in Miami.
Campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks issued a statement questioning Fields’s professionalism and accusing her of seeking attention.
Lewandowksi, meanwhile, has mounted a barrage of abuse against Fields on his Twitter feed. On Thursday night, he tweeted ”@MichelleFields you are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.”
The 30-second snippet from C-SPAN’s coverage of Trump’s primary-night event—Campaign 2016’s answer to the Zapruder Film—shows the red-tied candidate walking amid a scrum of aides, Secret Service agents and reporters, with the blue-shirted, dark-suited Lewandowski marching a couple of feet behind Trump and to his left.
At 0:03 in the video, Fields--wearing a cream-colored jacket and standing next to a checkered-shirted Washington Post reporter, Ben Terris--can be seen brandishing a smart phone equipped with a recording device as she moves into position alongside Trump as if to ask him a question.
At 0:08 in the video, Trump turns his head to face Fields, while Lewandowski can be seen reaching toward her with his left arm.
At 0:09, as the view of Trump and Fields is obstructed by a television camera, Lewandowski appears to extend his arm and leans into Fields’s position.
The next sighting of Trump—or actually the top of his blond head, in a thicket of flashing cameras—comes at 0:18, and Fields can’t be seen.
It’s at this point, presumably, that she and Terris—who identified Lewandowski to Fields as her assailant and later wrote about the encounter--are discussing what had just occurred.
Many commenters in the media reacted to the C-SPAN video as confirmation of Fields’s account.
On Twitter, Fox News contributor and Town Hall political editor Guy Benson assailed the Trump campaign: “Not believing the victim, witness, or audio, they demanded video evidence & a police complaint. They now have both. They don't care.”
Even Breitbart News, which previously claimed that Terris misidentified Lewandowski, acknowledged in its headline over Friday’s updated story: “Video Shows Lewandowski Reaching in Michelle Fields’s Direction.”
Ben Terris, meanwhile, stuck by his story, telling Erik Wemple: “I saw what I saw.”