Donald Trump staunchly defended his campaign manager Wednesday after he was charged with misdemeanor battery over allegations he grabbed the arm of a reporter, as the Republican front-runner suggested the reporter could have been perceived as a threat.
“She's grabbing my arm. She's not supposed to. She broke through Secret Service, she is asking questions,” Trump told Fox News on Wednesday. “She's got a pen in her arm, which she's not supposed to have. It shows that she's a very aggressive person who is grabbing at me and touching me. Maybe I should file charges against her.”
Trump also defended campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at a town hall event in Wisconsin, rejecting calls to fire him because “I’m loyal” – while downplaying the allegations themselves.
If reporter Michelle Fields really had fallen, Trump said, “He would have been fired before she even got up.”
The counter-accusations made clear that Trump and his team would continue to fight the charges, which amounted to an unexpected curveball in a primary race that’s seen its share of surprises.
Fields, meanwhile, stood by her claims. And after Trump earlier suggested she changed her story, she pushed back.
“Seriously, just stop lying,” she told Trump on Twitter.
The incident occurred after a March 8 press conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., where Lewandowski was accused by Fields of grabbing her arm as she asked the Republican front-runner a question.
Lewandowski initially denied the incident had taken place.
However, the Jupiter Police Department obtained video from the ballroom that it says parallels Fields' version of events, and subsequently charged Lewandowski.
The police report says Lewandowski "grabbed Fields left arm with his right hand, causing her to turn and step back."
Trump vowed to stand by Lewandowski, telling reporters Tuesday afternoon on his plane in Janesville, Wis. he does not discard people.
"Corey's a fine person. I looked at the tapes, the tapes were supplied by me," Trump said.
The Trump campaign also issued a statement Tuesday calling Lewandowski “absolutely innocent.”
“Mr. Lewandowski was issued a notice to appear and was given a court date. He was not arrested. Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement. “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 is due to appear in court on May 4th to face one count of simple battery.
Fields resigned from her job at Breitbart.com shortly after the incident, claiming that the organization had not stood by her.
Ted Cruz's campaign said the incident is indicative of the culture of the Trump campaign.
"Unfortunately, this abusive behavior seems to be part of the culture of the Trump campaign. Personal attacks, verbal attacks, and now physical attacks have no place in politics or anywhere else in our society," campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said in a statement.
Meanwhile, John Kasich's campaign strategist John Weaver called Lewandowski a "bully" and said he would have already been fired if he worked for the Ohio governor.