Bob Sparks: No heroes in Trump campaign vs. reporter feud

Tracie Davis

Donald Trump’s campaign manager is now part of the Jupiter, Florida police blotter. His victim, according to the probable cause affidavit, is a battered and bruised former reporter for the conservative Breitbart News.

Corey Lewandowski and Michelle Fields were not household names prior to this avoidable public spectacle. If the cable news outlets and bloggers have their way, the video capturing the incident will loop over and over again.

As all of this plays out, there is every reason to believe that neither will emerge as sympathetic figures. Breitbart News, Fields’ now-former employer, did not bathe itself in glory with the way it handled this incident.

There appears to be little doubt that Lewandowski grabbed Fields as she attempted to ask Trump a question following a rally at the Trump National Golf Club on March 8. Fields provided a photo via social media showing bruises on her left arm. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris corroborated Fields’ account of events.

A video appears to show that at that point, Lewandowski was in violation of Florida law. Section 784.03(1) (a) (1) says a misdemeanor occurs when someone “(a)ctually or intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other.”

He would also have violated this broad statute had he only gently escorted her away from his boss. Any contact, no matter how slight, designed to keep Fields away from Trump would most certainly have been touching her against her will.

There is nothing wrong with a reporter trying to do his or her job of asking questions provided they remain professional. No evidence exists that she violated that standard. It is also worth noting that the incident occurred in the area reserved for media.

Trump is, of course, outraged on behalf of his campaign manager. Trump claims Fields grabbed him as she tried to ask her question. “Can I press charges?” he Tweeted.

The video does appear to show Trump recoiling his right arm in an apparent reaction to being touched. Whoever touched Trump would officially be in violation of the statute used against Lewandowski. We can only hope Trump was being glib and not considering legal action.

Fields would have been better served by being more glib and less litigious. A multi-round Twitter fight, as opposed to filing a complaint against Lewandowski, would be better than the course she chose.

She has demonstrated an ability to compete on social media. Her best course of action now would be to get this thing settled as soon as possible or drop the charges, but that may not happen anytime soon.

This sideshow is yet another shiny object that distracts the electorate, the media and columnists. Such distractions keep the focus on misdemeanors instead of the serious issues before us.

Fields is just the latest tool, but her legal action is responsible for the tsunami that will flood multiple news cycles (joining Trump’s recent comments on abortion). In hindsight, she will probably regret taking it this far.

Originally, Lewandowski denied touching her and called her “delusional” and an “attention seeker.” A Trump campaign spokesperson labeled the accusations “entirely false.” Then came the video.

Were he still living, Richard Nixon spokesman Ron Ziegler could relate. When confronted with evidence contrary to one of his Watergate-era statements, he famously said “that statement is no longer operative.”

After Fields made her claims, Breitbart actually published a story challenging her version of events. This was not a huge surprise since the publication has long been in the tank for Trump.

Some of her fellow reporters in the Breitbart newsroom were imploring the publication’s management to support her. Fields resigned, as did Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro.

Of all the words Donald Trump utters through multiple forms of media, he pledges to never use his two most famous when it comes to Lewandowksi: “You’re fired.”

This incident alone does not disqualify Lewandowski for his job, but perhaps the tone-deafness of its negative potential on women voters does. In a normal election cycle this would be damaging, but what do I know? I am one of thousands of members of the club that has been wrong about Trump’s lasting appeal.

In a rational world, a simple apology for being too rough would have prevented this. Even Breitbart called for that. But if your campaign thrives on controversy and the campaign manager generates some of his own, then Michelle Fields is a godsend.

Hopefully she is prepared for the vitriol that will continue for the foreseeable future.


Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Bob Sparks

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at [email protected] and Twitter @BobSparksFL.


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