“Textbook Victim-Blaming” : Media Criticize Trump's Defense Of His Campaign Manager

Media figures condemned Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for using some of the “oldest” and “ugliest” plays in the “victim-shaming” playbook in his defense of his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, after Lewandowski was charged with simple battery following a March 8 incident with reporter Michelle Fields.

Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski Charged With Battery Of Former Breitbart Reporter During Florida Event

NY Times: “Corey Lewandowski, Campaign Manager for Donald Trump, Is Charged With Battery.” On March 29, The New York Times reported that Florida police had charged Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, with simple battery. The article detailed the charge:

Donald J. Trump's presidential campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with simple battery Tuesday by the police in Jupiter, Fla., who said he had grabbed a reporter for Breitbart News as she tried to ask the candidate a question.

The charge stems from an incident on March 8 that attracted days of news coverage and became a distraction for Mr. Trump's campaign as his victories in the March 1 Super Tuesday contests gave way to more mixed results.

It occurred after a news conference at Trump National Golf Club, as Mr. Trump made his way out of a crowded room and the reporter, Michelle Fields of Breitbart News, a conservative website, sidled up to him.

Ms. Fields said she was trying to ask Mr. Trump about judges and affirmative action when Mr. Lewandowski grabbed her roughly. She posted on Twitter a picture of finger-shaped bruises on her arm.

Mr. Lewandowski denied touching her and called Ms. Fields “delusional.”

But Ms. Fields pressed charges three days later, according to a police report. The investigating officer, Detective Marc Bujnowski, took statements from Ms. Fields and a Washington Post reporter, Ben Terris, who said he had witnessed the incident. The detective also obtained security video footage from the Trump golf club, which he said “parallels what Fields had told me.”

Mr. Lewandowski, Detective Bujnowski wrote, “grabbed Fields left arm with his right hand, causing her to turn and step back.” [The New York Times, 3/29/16]

Trump Defends Lewandowski, Claims Fields Attacked Him And Faked Her Injury

CNN: Trump Claims Fields Faked Her Bruises And Grabbed Him. CNN reported on March 30 that Trump defended Lewandowski during a press conference, calling him a “fine person” and saying he wouldn't “discard” Lewandowski. Trump also speculated that Fields faked her injury from the incident, asking, “How do you know those bruises weren't there before?” and went on to suggest that Fields tried to grab him, tweeting, “Why is she allowed to grab me and shout questions? Can I press charges?” :

In a gaggle on his private plane Tuesday afternoon, Trump told reporters that Lewandowski was a “fine person,” and suggested he would not part ways with his campaign manager.

“I don't discard people,” Trump said.


In a series of tweets, Trump suggested that Fields physically touched him following the March 8 press conference. “Why is she allowed to grab me and shout questions? Can I press charges?” he wrote, with a blurry screen shot of himself and Fields from the evening.


He then tweeted a photo zoomed into Fields' hand near his arm, and posed this question: “Why is this reporter touching me as I leave news conference? What is in her hand??”


On the plane, Trump raised questions about the bruises.

“How do you know those bruises weren't there before?” Trump said. “Wouldn't you think she would have yelled out a scream or something if she had bruises on her arm?” [CNN, 3/30/16]

Media Criticize Trump For “Engaging In Victim-Blaming” By Attacking Fields

Daily Beast's Goldie Taylor: Trump Campaign Used The “Oldest, Ugliest Plays In The Book Of Victim-Shaming.” Daily Beast editor-at-large Goldie Taylor detailed Trump and Lewandowski's “victim-shaming playbook” and criticized the campaign's defense tactics, calling them some of the “oldest, ugliest plays in the book of victim-shaming.” Taylor concluded, “One has to question the discernment of a man who would hire a miscreant like Lewandowski in the first place” :

For weeks, Trump and his mini-mes have unfurled magnificent lie after magnificent lie about a young reporter, Michelle Fields, who said she was strong-armed by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (of whose name I am ashamed to have memorized the spelling) as she attempted to ask the candidate a question after a Florida rally at Trump National Golf Club.


Even after a video emerged that appeared to back Fields' account, even as she filed a police report in Florida about it, Trump stood beside Lewandowski. If Trump had any class at all, he might have invited the journalist in for coffee and given his regrets. He might have said there's no justifiable cause, under any circumstances, for anyone involved with his campaign to put hands on a reporter.


Wednesday, Trump has one more chance to get it right, after Florida police charged Lewandowski with simple battery. A new video, released by the Jupiter Police Department, shows Fields with an ink pen in her hand, trying to ask Trump a question, just as she'd said. And Lewandowski grabbing her, just as she'd said he had. It was taken from Trump's own cameras, footage he and his security team knew existed and did not release of their own accord.

Instead of doing the right thing, the campaign and its surrogates went after Fields anew, pulling out the oldest, ugliest plays in the book of victim-shaming. It was a defense strategy most prevalent among rapists and domestic abusers. Once again, Trump and his gang aimed to bully their way through the news cycle.


But, the fact that a man with Lewandowski's lackluster career is employed by Trump speaks volumes. That his behavior is excused and paved over says a lot about the kind of people who would inhabit a Trump administration. One has to question the discernment of a man who would hire a miscreant like Lewandowski in the first place. One has to question his commitment to civil liberties, including freedom of the press, and his stated devotion to “the women.” [Daily Beast, 3/30/16]

Huffington Post: “The Trump Campaign Appears To Be Engaging In Textbook Victim-Blaming.” In a March 29 article, Huffington Post reporters Cristina Wilkie and Dana Liebelson called out Trump for “painting himself as the victim,” noting that “The Trump campaign appears to be engaging in textbook victim-blaming” :

The Trump campaign appears to be engaging in textbook victim-blaming. When Fields first reported what happened to her, Trump's campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, suggested Fields was not believable because she had reported a previous incident of police abuse. This is a classic tactic used to undermine women and other individuals who report assault -- claiming that because a person reports assault more than once, he or she must be lying.

As Trump worked himself up into a tizzy during an impromptu press conference Tuesday afternoon, the presidential candidate began painting himself as the victim of the altercation between Lewandowski and Fields, who Trump said, was “grabbing at me, and [Lewandowski] was acting as an intermediary and trying to block her from doing that.” [Huffington Post, 3/29/16]

Huffington Post's Sam Stein: “What Donald Trump Is Doing Now Is Really Despicable. It's Pure Victim-Blaming.” On a March 30 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Huffington Post senior politics editor Sam Stein slammed Trump's actions, saying “what Donald Trump is doing now is really despicable. It's pure victim-blaming” :

SAM STEIN: The campaign manager just flat out lied about it.

COKIE ROBERTS: Well, that's true.

STEIN: Just flat out lied about it. He did grab her, whether you think it was tough or not. He did grab her, then took to Twitter and said he never met her and never touched her. That is a lie, a demonstrable lie and it could have been solved completely innocently if he just said 'I'm sorry, I didn't realize I touched you that hard.'


And what Donald Trump is doing now is really despicable. It's pure victim blaming. I mean, I get it, the incident wasn't that radical, right? But to say a pen could have been a bomb is absurd. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 3/30/16]

Salon's Amanda Marcotte: Trump's Response Is Part Of An Environment Where “White Conservative Men Can Treat Everyone Else Like Garbage.” In a March 29 article, Salon politics writer Amanda Marcotte slammed Trump's defense of Lewandowski as “just another day in the life of the gangster candidate, where your people are less like campaign staffers and more like the muscle.” Marcotte added that the whole incident highlights “what the Trump campaign is all about,” creating “a society where white conservative men can treat everyone else like garbage and no one can do anything about it” :

It's just another day in the life of the gangster candidate, where your people are less like campaign staffers and more like the muscle. Lewandowski, in particular, relishes the role of the heavy, wandering the floor in a menacing fashion at campaign rallies and allegedly pushing other advisors out so that he is the only guy with Trump's ear. Like his boss, Lewandowski is a big fan of using likely empty threats of lawsuits to cower anyone who might criticize him.

But Trump's loyalty to Lewandowski is not just because they are peas in a pod. We can expect the Trump campaign to stand by their man because throwing Lewandowski under the bus would be a direct rejection of everything the campaign stands for, both implicitly and explicitly. Firing people for allegedly assaulting women is exactly the kind of namby-pamby kow-towing to “political correctness” that Trump promises his campaign will eradicate. They can't back down now, just because there's video footage that makes Lewandowski's denials excessively hard to swallow.

This whole incident strikes right at the heart of what the Trump campaign is all about. The sneering at “political correctness” and the posturing about making America “great” again really boils down to one thing: Creating a society where white conservative men can treat everyone else like garbage and no one can do anything about it. [Salon, 3/29/16]