© Scott Audette / Reuters
By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) - A reporter for the conservative website Breitbart News filed a criminal complaint on Friday against Republican presidential election front-runner Donald Trump's campaign manager, saying he grabbed her arm at a rally with such force that he left bruises.
A police report released on Friday showed that the reporter, Michelle Fields, said she was the victim of battery on Tuesday night at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, where Trump spoke after that day's contests in the race to nominate the party's candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
The accusation prompted a flurry of exchanges between Trump's campaign and Fields. The campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and Trump have denied the accusation. Lewandowski dismissed Fields as an "attention seeker" on Twitter.
Fields published her account at Breitbart on Thursday of what happened when reporters gathered around Trump to ask him additional questions after a press conference.
Fields said she asked Trump about his views on affirmative action.
"Trump acknowledged the question, but 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 wrote.
A Trump campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, questioned Fields' story on Friday. Hicks said she had not seen any encounter and said no cameras had captured the incident.
Fields, who posted a photo on Twitter of bruises on her arm, initially said she did not know who had grabbed her and caused her to stumble.
Ben Terris, a Washington Post reporter who witnessed the incident, told her Lewandowski had seized her arm. He wrote his own account for his newspaper.
The political news site Politico posted a transcript of an audio recording of the incident, which included an exchange between Terris and Fields.
"Yeah he just threw you down," Terris said to Fields, who replied, "I can't believe he just did that. That was so hard. Was that Corey?"
Terris said that it was and later reported that Fields was tearful after the incident.
In a statement on Friday, Breitbart Chief Executive Officer Larry Solov said Trump's suggestion that Fields may have invented the episode was contradicted by the evidence.
"Breitbart News stands behind Michelle Fields," he wrote.
Hours later, however, the website posted a story disputing Terris' account. The story said that footage from the event showed Trump flanked by two men: Lewandowski and a security official who bore some resemblance to the campaign manager.
"The person who made contact with Fields was likely not Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski," the report said.
Terris stood by his account on Friday. He was quoted in a blog by Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple as saying, "I saw what I saw." Terris did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Fields and Solov could not immediately be reached for comment on the complaint to police.
Trump's rallies across the United States have been marked by rowdiness and physical contact between protesters and either his supporters or security personnel. At a rally in Virginia on Feb. 29, a Time magazine photographer trying to document the exit of dozens of black protesters was grabbed by the neck and shoved to the ground by a U.S. Secret Service agent.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest also weighed in on the Fields incident on Friday, telling reporters: "There is no excuse or justification for acts of violence against reporters who are covering a political event."
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins and Jeff Mason; editing by Grant McCool)
This article was funded in part by SAP. It was independently created by the Reuters editorial staff. SAP had no editorial involvement in its creation or production.
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