(Bloomberg) - Donald Trump’s campaign manager was charged with battery against a journalist on Tuesday (March 29), roiling the Republican front-runner’s campaign for president.
Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is accused of grabbing the arm of a reporter for the conservative website Breitbart at a campaign event in Florida on March 8 as she tried to ask the candidate questions.
“Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated,” the Trump campaign said in a statement.
The billionaire followed with his own defense. “Wow, Corey Lewandowski, my campaign manager and a very decent man, was just charged with assaulting a reporter. Look at tapes-nothing there!” Trump wrote to his 7.3 million Twitter followers.
The charge comes one week ahead of a key primary in Wisconsin. Trump, who was set to campaign there later Tuesday, has spent recent days feuding with rival Ted Cruz over the treatment of their wives in the race, and Trump made comments on Monday suggesting he is trying to address his vulnerability among women voters.
The reporter, Michelle Fields, said Lewandowski grabbed her on the arm and pulled her when she tried to question Trump after an event in Jupiter on March 8, an account backed up by a Washington Post reporter who was present.
Fields later resigned from her news outlet, citing a lack of support.
After Fields first made the allegation, Lewandowski called her “totally delusional,” and Trump suggested Fields was lying.
Newly released surveillance footage appears to corroborate the story, the Palm Beach Post said.
Lewandowski turned himself in to authorities in Jupiter, Florida, on Tuesday morning, according to the newspaper there.
An aide to Ohio Governor John Kasich, Trump’s other rival for the nomination, said Tuesday that Lewandowski would be fired if he worked for them. “Campaigns though always reflect the values of the candidate. I know ours does,” Kasich chief strategist John Weaver said in an e-mail.