Breitbart, the controversial conservative website we discussed last week, has been in the news again this campaign season. The site has been criticized for its favorable coverage of presidential contender Donald J. Trump. More news worthy, however, is a controversy that has arisen after Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields was manhandled by Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. The Trump campaign originally denied that any altercation happened, and Breitbart published a story that supported Trump and threw their own reporter Fields under the bus.
According to Fields’ personal account, Trump was taking questions from a row of reporters and she asked him a question. Then, as she writes, “before he could answer I was jolted backwards. Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost fell to the ground, but was able to maintain my balance. Nonetheless, I was shaken.” Fields was then told by Washington Post reporter Ben Terris that is was Lewandowski who had grabbed her. After Trump and Lewandowski denied that anything had happened, Fields tweeted a photo of bruises on her arm. She then sought charges against Lewandowski, who was charged for simple battery by the Jupiter, Florida Police Department. Although the charges were recently dropped by Palm Beach County Florida State Attorney, David Aronberg, video was released which showed Lewandowski grabbing her arm and pulling her away.
Breitbart responded to this incident by publishing a story contradicting the story of their own reporter. In the story, Breitbart reporter Joel Pollack wrote that new video showed “the Washington Post’s account of an altercation involving Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields could not possibly have happened as Ben Terris reported”. After this article was published, Fields and Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro resigned, shortly followed by two other members of Breitbart’s editorial staff. Jordan Schachtel, the site’s national security correspondent, was one of the staffers who resigned. In a statement, he wrote “Breitbart News is no longer a journalistic enterprise, but instead, in my opinion, something resembling an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the Trump campaign. I signed my contract to work as a journalist, not as a member of the Donald J. Trump for President media network.”
This Breitbart controversy shows a possible downside of some independents: that they can be extremely partisan and favor certain politicians in their coverage to extreme extents.