Updated on March 29 at 9 p.m. JANESVILLE, Wis. — Republican presidential front-runner told reporters here that a female reporter should have ‘screamed’ if she was grabbed by his campaign manager.
“There are pictures where she’s grabbing me, my arm,” Trump told reporters aboard his plane, motioning with his elbow about how he tried to brush off Michelle Fields, who was reporting for the conservative Breitbart News website. “I think it’s a disgrace that something like that could take place, and I’m shocked by it. And I’ll stick by people.”
Trump campaign chief Corey Lewandowski was charged with simple battery on Tuesday by police in Jupiter, Fla., stemming from an incident at a March 8 Trump campaign event at his country club.
A video released by police Tuesday seems to show Lewandowski grabbing Fields in what appeared to be a move to get her away from the candidate.
An audio recording released earlier captures Field’s reaction afterwards.
Elsewhere in the Badger State, Sen. Ted Cruz called the battery charge against his presidential rival’s campaign manager “a very sad development” that reflects the nature of the businessman’s campaign.
“This is the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign, the abusive culture,” the Texas Republican told reporters Tuesday. “When you have a campaign that is built on personal insults, on attacks, and now physical violence, that has no place in a political campaign, and it has no place in our democracy.”
“I know it’s probably not even politically good for me to do, but when somebody is maligned so unfairly as that, I will stick by you,” Trump told reporters.
Trump’s campaign has continued to deny that Lewandowski committed the act in question, despite Fields’ own statements, an eyewitness report and now surveillance video that shows the campaign manager in fact grabbing Fields.
The campaign issued a statement of support, saying “Mr. Lewandowski was issued a Notice to Appear and given a court date. He was not arrested. Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated.”
Lewandowski also received support from the crowd of supporters gathered at a conference center for Trump’s rally in Janesville. Around 40 minutes into his remarks, Trump brought up Lewandowski.
“You probably saw what happened today with my campaign manager, Corey. By the way the easiest thing: ‘Corey, you’re fired.’ I can’t do that. Can’t do it. So fortunately I have a taping system.”
He later asked the crowd. “Did anybody see the tape?” The crowd responded with shouts of “Yeah!” and “Liar!”
“Women, what do you think,” Trump asked the crowd and one woman yelled, “She’s a liar!”
The woman began to say that she had seen the tape, and Trump interrupted to add, “I mean she wasn’t like – her face stayed the same. If somebody squeezed your arm or did something really bad—once again initially she said ‘thrown to the floor.’ But if somebody squeezed your arm or hurt you, wouldn’t you start screaming or something? Did you see any change in her face?”
The woman then said she had watched the tape multiple times, and didn’t see any wrongdoing. Trump went on to describe the incident to the rally.
“There were a whole gang of people pushing left and right, left and right and all of a sudden she bolts into the picture. She grabs me or hits me on the arm. I’m like this with my arm up,” Trump said. “And then he goes by. He maybe touched her a little bit. But I didn’t see – it was almost like he was trying to keep her off me, right?” The crowd responded with shouts of, “Yeah!”
Trump then, at the crowd’s urging, dramatically read Fields’ statement following the incident where she said she was grabbed tightly by the arm and “yanked” down.
Trump also responded to Cruz’s criticism, implying that he was backing Lewandowski out of charity.
“And then I had Cruz saying, ‘Oh that was a terrible thing. That was a terrible thing.'” Trump said. “Let me tell you something folks … I didn’t need to do this. I’m doing this because I just had a beautiful grandchild.”
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