- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign manager was charged Tuesday with simple battery for allegedly manhandling a female reporter at a Florida press conference.

The charge was filed against Corey Lewandowski in Jupiter, Florida, where the incident occurred at Trump International Golf Club.

Mr. Trump steadfastly defended Mr. Lewandowski, as he has since the incident was first reported earlier this month.

“He was very very seriously maligned and it was unfair,” the billionaire businessman said at an impromptu press conference aboard his private Boeing 757.

Earlier, the campaign put out a statement saying that Mr. Lewandowski was “completely confident that he will be exonerated.”

Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court,” said the statement.

SEE ALSO: Michael Hayden, ex-CIA director: Donald Trump ‘already made Americans less safe’

The misdemeanor charge stems from a March 8 incident at a Trump press conference where Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields claimed that during a scrum, Mr. Lewandowski grabbed her by the arm and tried to throw her to the ground.

Ms. Fields reportedly showed police bruises on her arm that were consistent with being grabbed.

The crime of simple battery in Florida is defined as any actual and intentional touching or striking of another person that is non-consensual or has the intention of inflicting bodily harm to another person.

Breitbart management did not support Ms. Fields when she first made the accusations, prompting her and several top staffers and editors at the conservative news site to resign.

Aboard his jet, Mr. Trump brushed aside suggestions that he fire Mr. Lewandowski, whom he called a “good person.”

“I don’t discard people. I stay with people,” he said. “That’s why I stay with this country. That’s why I stay with a lot of people that are treated unfairly. That’s one of the reasons I’m the front-runner by a lot.”

He said that videotape of the incident showed that Ms. Fields was accosting the candidate when Mr. Lewandowski intervened.

“A lot of people are looking at [the video] and saying, ‘How can anybody be charged?’ She was actually — she’s grabbing at me and he is acting as an intermediary trying to block her form doing that,” said Mr. Trump. “The news conference was over. It was done. It was finished. And she was running up and grabbing and asking questions. You’re not supposed to be doing that.”

He noted that the videotape was from surveillance cameras at his resort and that he supplied the video to the authorities.

Although the video seems to show Ms. Fields being pulled away from Mr. Trump, it does not show Mr. Lewandowski touching her.

Mr. Trump’s opponents, both Republicans and Democrats, said the charge against Mr. Lewandowski indicates an abusive culture at the Trump campaign. The candidate’s opponents also drew parallels to violent altercations between supporters and protesters at Trump rallies, which were blamed on Mr. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who is Mr. Trump’s top challenger for the GOP nomination, said the charge showed “what the Trump campaign is all about.”

“This is the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign, the abusive culture when you have a campaign that is built on personal insults and attacks and now physical violence that has no place in a political campaign and has no place in our democracy,” Mr. Cruz told reporters while campaign in Wisconsin.

“It is a really unfortunate development but I do think it helps clarify for the voters what the Trump campaign is all about,” he said.

Brian Fallon, spokesman for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, said he wouldn’t comment on the charge other than to say that Mr. Trump was responsible for the conduct of his staff and supporters.

Mr. Trump knows better than anyone, as the head of his own business — the buck stops at the top and [he] has to take responsibility of the conduct of their staff and their supporters at their events,” he said on CNN.

Katrina Pierson, the national spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, dismissed talk of an abusive culture.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty or at least that’s what I thought,” she said in a separate appearance on CNN. “The other candidates have been trying to politicize every single allegation that comes in. That’s the only thing that is happening here.”

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