Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Tuesday sought to discredit a reporter who accused his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of violently yanking her earlier this month, for which he was formally charged with misdemeanor battery Tuesday.
Lewandowski was charged with one misdemeanor count of battery against former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, the Jupiter Police Department in Florida announced Tuesday morning. The incident occurred on March 8 at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter as Lewandowsi and the real estate mogul left a press conference following several primary victories.
Trump downplayed the altercation during a campaign event at the Janesville’s Holiday Inn Express & Convention Center, doubling down on assertions that Fields has exaggerated the incident. Trump and his campaign have previously denied that the encounter occurred at all.
“If somebody squeezed your arm or hurt you, wouldn’t you scream?” Trump told a crowd during a town hall event.
Video footage released by the police department Tuesday, captured by a security camera at Trump National, shows Lewandowski pulling Fields back.
“@MichelleFields you are totally delusional,” Lewandowski tweeted at one point. “I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.”
Lewandowski turned himself in voluntarily to police headquarters in Jupiter, Florida. He has been ordered to appear in court on May 4.
In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News on Tuesday, Trump said that Lewandowski was merely protecting him against a potential, unidentified threat.
“She grabbed me and she had something in her hand. I don’t know what it was,” he told Hannity, according to a transcript of the interview which will air in full Tuesday evening. “It looked like it could have been a pen. But you know, from the standpoint of where we are, who knows what it is.”
In Janesville, Trump did a dramatic reading of a statement released by Fields in the days after the incident, which she said left bruises on her arm. Members of the crowd laughed along at several points, and several shouting in agreement with Trump.
“All of a sudden she bolts into the picture, she grabs me or hits me on the arm. . .and then he goes by,” Trump told the crowd. “I mean, maybe he touched her a little bit. But it was almost like he was trying to keep her off me, right?”
“She never went to the ground,” he said. “She never even flinched.”
The battery charge against Lewandowski comes as the campaign grapples with waning support among women, which could present a challenge to Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee. The Democratic Party is poised to elect former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as the first female presidential candidate.
The Trump campaign had some help with counter-programing his women voter problem Tuesday at the campaign event. Toward the end of the town hall, a woman who identified herself as Melissa Young – a former Miss Wisconsin USA from 2005 – stood up and thanked Trump for writing to her with words of support after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She said that, because of Trump and his organization, her young son would one day be able to attend college on a full scholarship.
“Folks, I’d almost like to leave it at that because we can’t top that. That is so amazing,” Trump told the crowd. “Thank you, thank you.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Jose A. DelReal