TIMELINE: How Breitbart News Imploded In Paroxysm Of Trump-mania

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo

After a Breitbart News reporter alleged that a top staffer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manhandled her after a news conference Tuesday night, the fallout, and the conservative news site’s bungled response, became national news fodder for days.

The insider-y machinations demonstrated the precarious symbiotic relationship that’s central to conservative media’s existence. When all goes as planned, politicians have a soft landing place to feed exclusives and get ahead of a story. But the dynamic gets more complicated when forced to choose between maintaining access or burning one of your own.

Here’s a timeline of the events that have led four Breitbart staffers to resign so far.

Tuesday, March 8

After an evening press conference at Trump’s Jupiter, Florida golf club, Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields said she tried to approach the Republican frontrunner to ask a question.

Accounts differ on what happened next, but Fields alleges that Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, grabbed her by the arm to forcibly move her out of the way, hard enough to nearly knock her to the ground.

Wednesday, March 9

Breitbart News CEO Larry Solov issued a statement saying that “it’s obviously unacceptable that someone crossed a line and made physical contact with our reporter.” Solov also said that Fields didn’t see who grabbed her, but that The Washington Post’s Ben Terris told her it was Lewandowski.

“If that’s the case, Corey owes Michelle an immediate apology,” he said.

Thursday, March 10

8 a.m.: Fields publishes her account of the run-in

Fields wrote in a column on Breitbart that Trump acknowledged her question about affirmative action, but she was “jolted backwards” before he could answer it.

She said Terris “immediately remarked” that it was Lewandowski who grabbed her arm and said the campaign manager was “out of line.”

Not long after, the first calls from conservatives for Trump to fire Lewandowski over the incident began. Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro, Dana Loesch, and “Commentary” editor John Podhoretz were among them.

Early afternoon: WaPo reporter publishes his account of events

Terris didn’t mince words in his profile of the hawkish operatives closest to Trump for WaPo, which included his account of the incident.

“I watched as a man with short-cropped hair and a suit grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the way. He was Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 41-year-old campaign manager,” he wrote.

“Fields stumbled. Finger-shaped bruises formed on her arm,” he continued.

1:54 p.m.: Trump campaign calls allegations “entirely false”

Spokeswoman Hope Hicks called Fields’ allegations “entirely false” in a statement to ABC News.

“As one of dozens of individuals present as Mr. Trump exited the press conference I did not witness any encounter,” Hicks said in the statement. “In addition to our staff, which had no knowledge of said situation, not a single camera or reporter of more than 100 in attendance captured the alleged incident.”

2:02 p.m.: Fields posts photo of bruised arm

Shortly after Trump’s camp denied the alleged incident happened, Fields posted a photo of bruises on her arm allegedly caused by Lewandowski.

2:35 p.m.: Lewandowski starts smear campaign targeting Fields

The campaign manager took to Twitter to condemn Fields as an “attention seeker” and linked to two prior incidents where he suggested she overplayed her role for her own gain.

“Professional reporting or attention seeking?” He asked in a tweet with a link to a Daily Caller story where Fields recounted New York police hitting her with batons during the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011.

Lewandowski also tweeted Fields “once claimed Allen West groped her but later went silent,” with a link to notorious right-wing troll Charles C. Johnson’s blog.

5 p.m.: Politico publishes transcript of run-in

After a voice allegedly belonging to Lewandowski says “excuse me, thank you,” Terris can be heard asking Fields if she’s okay in a transcript of audio of the incident obtained by Politico.

“Holy shit,” Fields responds.

“Yeah he just threw you down,” Terris says back. He asks Fields if he can include the incident in his story, to which Fields tells him to “go for it.”

“Oh my God, that really spooked me,” Fields says in the recording. “You’re going after a Breitbart reporter, the people who are nicest to you?”

Politico originally posted only the transcript of the recording, but later published the audio as well.

10:30 p.m.: Trump says incident was “made up”

Responding to questions after Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate, Trump told reporters: “This was, in my opinion, made up.”

“Everybody said nothing happened. Perhaps she made the story up,” Trump said of Fields. “I think that’s what happened.”

Friday, March 11

12:28 a.m.: Lewandowski calls Fields “delusional”

10 a.m.: Fields files criminal complaint with Florida police

The Jupiter Police Department confirmed law enforcement were investigating a misdemeanor battery after Fields filed a police report about the incident.

12 p.m.: Breitbart editor concludes person who grabbed Fields was “likely not” Lewandowski

In a painstaking shot-by-shot breakdown, Breitbart senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak laid out the case for Lewandowski not being the person who grabbed Fields’ arm at all.

After comparing a number of different video snippets of the incident, Pollak concluded “the person who made contact with Fields was likely not” Lewandowki and Terris was wrong to identify him as the culprit.

After a number of updates to the post, Pollak later amended the article to include new video that appeared to show Lewandowski reaching toward Fields.

4 p.m.: New video appears to show Lewandowski grab reporter’s arm

Video tweeted by a C-SPAN staffer purportedly shows the campaign manager grasping Fields’ arm, lending credence to the reporter’s account of events.

4:05 p.m.: Breitbart publicist Kurt Bardella cuts ties with company

In a series of tweets, Bardella, a GOP operative and former press secretary for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), confirmed he had parted ways with the company.

He also wrote that recent violent run-ins at Trump campaign events were “wrong and disgusting and indicative of an ugliness that is contaminating the public discourse.”

Saturday, March 12

In internal messages obtained by BuzzFeed News, Pollak is seen demanding that staff stop tweeting about the incident and stop publicly defending Fields until the site could get on message.

“EVERYONE. STOP tweeting about the story. Stop speculating about the story,” Pollak reportedly wrote in one message to staff.

“You may wish to defend your colleague, and that is commendable—but keep in mind that when you do so, you are also putting other colleagues under direct public pressure, so you are actually hurting some to help another,” he wrote in another. “That is why we have to be patient, and coordinate our responses.”

Sunday, March 13

1:20 a.m.: BuzzFeed reports top editor reached out about job with Trump

Pollak reached out to a former contact with Trump’s campaign to see if he needed a speechwriter earlier this year, BuzzFeed News reported.

“I’m wondering if he needs a speechwriter. I know he speaks off the cuff, etc. But maybe someone to review talking points and so on,” he said in emails obtained by BuzzFeed.

Pollak told the site he reached out to several campaigns while considering a return to speechwriting.

“I didn’t end up changing careers, and I’m proud to work at Breitbart. Yet another shocking BuzzFeed reveal: Breitbart editor continues to work at Breitbart,” the editor told BuzzFeed about the emails.

Late evening: Fields and Shapiro resign from Breitbart

“I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways,” Fields said in a Sunday night statement to BuzzFeed News.

In a statement, Shapiro called Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon a “bully” who sold out founder Andrew Breitbart’s “mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump.”

Monday, March 14

8 a.m.: Breitbart publishes, deletes post mocking Fields and Shapiro

A biting post on the site that featured Shapiro’s face in a yellow star after identifying him as an Orthodox Jew, titled “Ben Shapiro Betrays Loyal Breitbart Readers In Pursuit Of Fox News Contributorship,” slammed the ex-staffer for giving a statement to BuzzFeed.

“Former Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro announced Sunday evening via left-wing Buzzfeed that he is abandoning Andrew Breitbart’s lifelong best friend, widow, hand-picked management team and friends in pursuit of an elusive contributorship at the Fox News Channel,” the post read.

Hours after it was posted, the site pulled the story and replaced it with an apology from “Breitbart News Editor-at-Large and In-House Counsel Joel B. Pollak.”

Pollak said he wrote the post in “an effort to make light of a significant company event” and that it was published as a result of a “misunderstanding.”

12 p.m.: Two more Breitbart staffers resign

Jordan Schachtel, Breitbart national security correspondent, and editor Jarrett Stepman said in statements to Politico that they resigned their posts over the news site’s pro-Trump “propaganda.”

“Breitbart News is no longer a journalistic enterprise, but instead, in my opinion, something an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the trump campaign. I signed my contract to work as a journalist, not as a member of the Donald J. Trump for President media network,” Schachtel wrote.

Comments
Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Managing Editor:
Senior News Editor:
Assistant Editor:
Editor at Large:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Political Correspondent:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Front Page Editor:
Social Media Editor:
Editor for Prime & Special Projects:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Designer: