THE CULT OF TRUMP
At the conclusion of a news conference in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, Michelle Fields, a reporter for Breitbart News, a webzine deeply in the tank for Donald Trump, approached the candidate to ask him a question about affirmative action.
Someone grabbed her arm from behind and yanked her backward. Ms. Fields stumbled but didn’t fall. She didn’t see who grabbed her. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris told her it was Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager.
This was a thuggish thing to do. But it wasn’t a big deal. Ms. Fields was shaken and her arm was bruised, but she’d suffered no serious injury. In a sane world, Mr. Lewandowski would have apologized to Ms. Fields, perhaps while offering a self-serving explanation for his behavior. She would have accepted his apology. End of story.
That isn’t what happened. That night Lewandowski tacitly confirmed the incident to Matt Boyle, Breitbart’s Washington editor. He told Boyle he hadn’t known Ms. Fields worked for Breitbart — as if assaulting a female reporter would have been OK if she worked for Rolling Stone or National Review. Mr. Boyle called Ms. Fields to ask how she was doing, expressed hope the Trump campaign would make amends by granting Breitbart more exclusive interviews.
But the next day Lewandowski issued a statement denying the incident occurred, accused Ms. Fields of making it up to seek attention. To this point Ms. Fields had said nothing about it. In response to Mr. Lewandowski’s statement she tweeted a photo of the bruises on her arm, and filed a police report. Video obtained by the police from Trump surveillance cameras clearly showed Mr. Lewandowski yanking Ms. Fields’ arm.
Heretofore the candidate himself hadn’t been involved. When asked about the incident, Mr. Trump could have expressed general confidence in Mr. Lewandowski, claimed no specific knowledge of what had transpired between him and Ms. Fields.
He didn’t. Despite evidence making clear the incident had occurred, Mr. Trump joined in the attack. This was madness. The teapot tempest went viral.
This caused a crisis at Breitbart, which had issued a tepid statement saying that if the incident had occurred, Lewandowski should apologize to Fields. There was now clear evidence Mr. Lewandowski owed Ms. Fields as apology. But if Breitbart insisted upon it, Breitbart would be contradicting Mr. Trump. Would management back its reporter? Or its candidate?
Chairman Steve Bannon chose to back Mr. Trump. Breitbart published – and subsequently retracted – two stories casting doubt on Ms. Fields’ account. Ms. Fields resigned.
So did five other Breitbart employees, including public relations consultant Kurt Bardella, who told the webzine Politico he thought Mr. Lewandowski, Mr. Trump – and now Breitbart’s management – were lying.
Another was editor-at-large Ben Shapiro, who said that Steve Bannon “has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter…to protect Trump’s bully campaign manager.”
On March 29, police charged Mr. Lewandowski with misdemeanor battery. On April 14, Palm Beach County state attorney David Aronberg declined to prosecute him.
The Trump team hailed this as “exoneration,” but it was hardly that. It was a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion. So minor an act of rudeness ought never to have found its way into the criminal justice system.
This teapot tempest was much ado about nothing, but it raises important questions.
By attacking Ms. Fields rather than apologizing to her, team Trump stretched out a one day negative story for nearly two months. Why on earth did Mr. Trump involve himself directly in it, since it could only make his relationship with women voters more poisonous? Is his misogyny so great he couldn’t resist?
“That he is willing to escalate such a trivial incident raises questions about statecraft when the fate of nations is at stake,” said the American Thinker’s Thomas Lifson.
It isn’t possible for a “news” organization to behave more shamefully than Breitbart News, which ought to be renamed Trumpbart News, to put an end to an insult to the memory of a great man. The late Andrew Breitbart had a fierce devotion to the truth. He started Breitbart News to do the serious reporting the “mainstream” media ought to be doing, but doesn’t.
Now Breitbart is as much a propaganda organ for Trump as the “mainstream” media is for Democrats.
I continue to be amazed by the gullibility of the Trumpkins. Mr. Lewandowski’s story has changed nine times. Each iteration has been swallowed whole by Mr. Trump’s devotees, despite clear evidence Mr. Lewandowski manhandled Ms. Fields. But Trumpkins refuse to believe their lying eyes.
It’s hard to understand why. One can acknowledge Mr. Lewandowski’s misbehavior without thinking it a big deal, or abandoning their candidate.
To justify their rejection of the obvious, some Trumpkins viciously attacked the victim. Corey Lewandowski should be given a medal for protecting Trump from “narcissistic maniac” Michelle Fields, said radio talk show host Michael Savage the day Mr. Lewandowski was indicted.
Like the Obamabots of 2008, Trumpkins behave more like members of a cult than voters evaluating a candidate. If they start handing out Kool Aid at Trump rallies, beware.
Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret, and was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan Administration. He is the national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.