Lloyd Grove writing at the Daily Beast:
A day after its political reporter was manhandled by the candidate’s campaign manager in front of witnesses, the Trump-friendly news outlet has offered only the mildest of rebukes.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump and his outsider juggernaut seem to be doing much more than reinventing the rules of politics and terrifying the Washington establishment.
The reality television billionaire might also be laying the groundwork for a not-so-brave new world in which a campaign manager can assault a female journalist, while her news organization—in this case the famously Trump-friendly Breitbart News—responds with a mild rebuke in a vague statement perceived by some to be designed to protect the perpetrator.
This apparently describes, at least according to witnesses and other journalists interviewed by The Daily Beast, Breitbart’s handling of an incident Tuesday nightinvolving Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Breitbart political reporter Michelle Fields.
“It’s obviously unacceptable that someone crossed a line and made physical contact with our reporter,” said the Breitbart statement, issued under the name of Larry Solov, the outlet’s CEO and president. “What Michelle has told us directly is that someone ‘grabbed her arm’ and while she did not see who it was, Ben Terris of The Washington Post told her that it was Corey Lewandowski. If that’s the case, Corey owes Michelle an immediate apology.”
The statement was issued in the wee hours of Wednesday morning but remains Breitbart’s official comment on the matter, hours after sources said Lewandowski acknowledged to Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, that he did manhandle Fields.
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. Trump’s press secretary, Hope Hicks, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Nor did the usually responsive Boyle.
The Breitbart statement struck sources within Breitbart and outside the company as strangely inadequate, given that it blames an unidentified “someone,” uses the conditional phrase “if that’s the case,” and leaves open the possibility that Lewandowski didn’t lay hands on Fields.