An alleged physical run-in between a top Donald Trump aide and a female reporter was far from the first time the aide’s behavior and hot-headed demeanor raised questions among both journalists and his colleagues, according to a Politico report out Tuesday.
Citing anonymous sources familiar with the discussions, Politico reported that internal discontent with Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski reached such a fever pitch earlier this year that current and former staffers had planned to oust him, but abandoned the effort after Trump’s big primary victories in South Carolina and Nevada.
Politico spoke with 20 sources who have worked with Lewandowski during his tenure on the Trump campaign and his previous work with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative, Koch brothers-backed advocacy group. All but one of those sources, Trump confidant Roger Stone, were anonymous.
Lewandowski rebounded from running former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith’s failed 2002 re-election campaign to a job with AFP, where he eventually rose to regional director for East Coast operations during his more than five years with the group.
While one former coworker called Lewandowski a “cowboy” who lent AFP a “cool factor,” he was reportedly known for heated exchanges with those who crossed him. He reportedly fell out of favor with the group after he loudly berated a female employee who challenged him during an October 2013 board meeting in Manhattan. Three anonymous sources told Politico how Lewandowski proceeded to get in the woman’s personal space and called her a “cunt” in front of fellow AFP employees, including senior officials.
Both AFP and the female employee declined to comment to Politico on the incident, but the employee allegedly told multiple associates that Lewandowski’s treatment was “very demeaning and insulting.”
Lewandowski declined to comment on the meeting to Politico and maintained he was not pushed out of AFP but rather left to take a job with Trump.
But his record hasn’t improved on Trump’s campaign, according to Politico’s reporting. Lewandowski quickly become known for profanity-laced tirades and tightly controlling access to the billionaire real estate mogul.
Because Trump himself cannot be directly reached by email and Lewandowski rarely leaves his side, the group of current and former high-ranking staffers who allegedly plotted a coup had planned to deliver a letter stating their grievances with Lewandowski to Trump’s security head. But those efforts were derailed after big wins in South Carolina and Nevada, when the staffers determined Trump was unlikely to shift his strategy while victories were streaming in.
Anonymous journalists also told Politico that Lewandowski has used sexually suggestive and vulgar language with female reporters who covered the Trump campaign. Other reporters, also unnamed, said Lewandowski’s alleged manhandling of Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields wasn’t the first time he’d gotten physical with members of the media and told Politico about incidents where Lewandowski allegedly used his body to push reporters away from Trump.
In an email to Politico, Lewandowski denied those allegations and said he enjoys an “excellent” relationship with the reporters who cover Trump.