The statement was issued in the wee hours of Wednesday morning but remains Breitbart’s official comment on the matter, hours after sources said Lewandowski acknowledged to Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, that he did manhandle Fields.
Lewandowski’s explanation to Boyle, said these sources, was that he and Fields had never met before and that he didn’t recognize her as a Breitbart reporter, instead mistaking her for an adversarial member of the mainstream media. Trump’s press secretary, Hope Hicks, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Nor did the usually responsive Boyle.
The Breitbart statement struck sources within Breitbart and outside the company as strangely inadequate, given that it blames an unidentified “someone,” uses the conditional phrase “if that’s the case,” and leaves open the possibility that Lewandowski didn’t lay hands on Fields.
An additional wrinkle is that Politico, for one, didn’t identify Terris as Fields’s witness, at his request, because the Washington Post reporter had arranged informally to meet with Lewandowski on Wednesday for a Style section story and planned to confront the campaign manager about Tuesday night’s incident.
Hours after the Breitbart statement identified Terris, the Trump campaign informed him that his interview with Lewandowski would not take place, blaming a scheduling conflict—leaving several colleagues to believe that Breitbart had essentially given the Trump campaign manager a heads up on Terris’s intention.
Fields—who sources say was instructed by Breitbart’s PR consultant, Kurt Bardella, not to speak to other journalists about the incident, though Bardella claims otherwise—declined to comment for this story. Thursday morning, however, Breitbart posted her brief account of the incident.
“Why the hell isn’t Breitbart standing up strongly for their reporter?” demanded a journalist covering the Trump campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to antagonize Trump operatives and hamper the reporting process. “Why the hell did they need somebody else’s name? Why do they say ‘if it happened’? And why aren’t they allowing her to talk about it at all?”
The journalist continued: “Because they like Trump. And Trump is more important to them than their own people. There’s something weird about that.”