5 Times CNN's Corey Lewandowski Threatened the Press for Doing Its Job
Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s tumultuous relationship with the press formed one of the more intriguing b-plots of the 2016 election cycle. So when CNN boss man Jeff Zucker hired Lewandowski (who served as the GOP nominee’s right-hand man before his high-profile ousting last June) as an exclusive political commentator for the network, journalists and media critics questioned the rationale behind paying someone essentially to act as a mouthpiece for the Republican candidate.
Amazingly, until recently, Lewandowski was still receiving $20,000 a month from the Trump campaign for “severance pay,” meaning, as "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert noted to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “[CNN is] paying him, and Trump is paying him, but he’s on your show doing analysis for a man he still gets cash from?”
If CNN hiring Lewandowski while he was receiving cash from the Trump campaign isn’t enough to shake your faith in CNN's journalistic integrity, consider just how many times Lewandowski has threatened, harassed and mocked members of the very media to which he now supposedly belongs. We’ve compiled a list of Lewandowski’s five most egregious attacks on the press.
1. When he actively encouraged Donald Trump to sue the New York Times 'into oblivion.'
Considering one of Trump’s supporters successfully bankrolled the downfall of Gawker, it’s not surprising that Lewandowski’s sage advice to the GOP nominee over the perfectly legal publishing of part of his tax returns was to sue “them into oblivion for doing this.”
But that still doesn’t mitigate the jarring effect of watching someone whose salary is paid by one of the largest media brands in the world advocating the demise of another media institution.
“Well, here's what we know,” Lewandowski told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “The New York Times editor in chief, Dean Baquet, has told Harvard University, when he was up there speaking, he's willing to go to jail to publish Donald Trump's taxes, right? Number one, that's a felony, OK, to publish someone’s taxes without their permission. So the New York Times has a coordinated effort now to go out and—amazingly, two weeks after he says this, he receives a document in the mail, or one of those reporters does, that shows that it’s Donald Trump's tax returns and they just decide to publish them without any authentication.”
For starters, Lewandowski is referring to a federal statute that pertains to taxes filed with the Secretary of the Treasury. As Slate noted, the returns published by the Times were state filings, which don’t fall under the law’s jurisdiction. Further, as Camerota pointed out, the returns were authenticated by the person who filed Trump’s tax returns.
Lewandowski went on to argue there’s “no national security interest to Donald Trump's tax returns,” which might be true, but certainly there’s a huge public interest in how much federal income tax the self-proclaimed billionaire who wants to be president pays. Even 62 percent of Republican voters think the candidate should release his tax returns.
“The New York Times should be held accountable,” Lewandowski continued. “And I hope he sues them into oblivion for doing this, because if the fact remains—if it comes out that these aren't accurate, where's the recourse?”
2. When he lied to CNN about working with a pro-Trump super PAC.
Journalists are supposed to uncover the truth, which is why Lewandowski’s hiring is so perplexing; as a mouthpiece for the Trump campaign, the former manager lacks a professional obligation to be straightforward and truthful in his commentary.
That much was on full display in July, when Buzzfeed cited six sources who said Lewandowsky was pitching a Trump super PAC to campaign donors. “I have nothing to do with any super PACs,” Lewandowski told the news site.
An hour later, the Hill published a piece with Lewandowski admitting to speaking with donors. I offered advice,” Lewandowski reasoned. “That’s what they asked for. I’m not involved in it. I don’t get paid, don’t consult, just told people how to do it.”
Truthfulness isn’t exactly Lewandoski’s strong suit, which makes it all the more interesting that he’s now funded by a company whose purpose is supposed to be discovering and reporting the truth.
3. When he made sexually suggestive comments to female reporters.
Reports of Lewandowski’s behavior toward female reporters during his reign of terror as Trump’s campaign manager are chilling at best. In March, Politico published a report detailing Lewandowski’s approach to women on Trump’s traveling press corp.
“Additionally, reporters told Politico that Lewandowski has made sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments toâ€•and aboutâ€•female journalists who have covered Trump’s presidential bid. One reporter who was on the receiving end of such comments described them as “completely inappropriate in a professional setting.”
Buzzfeed expanded on Politico’s report, noting that journalists covering Trump witnessed Lewandowski express frustration toward female journalists “while also voicing a wish to have sex with them.” Buzzfeed also reported Lewandowski’s penchant for late-night phone calls to “come on to” female reporters, “often not sounding entirely sober.”
Maybe that’s what Lewandowski meant when he told CNN he has a “great relationship with the press.”
4. When he told a reporter to stay in the press pen or risk being 'f**king blacklisted.'
The Trump campaign loves to threaten the “dishonest” media with their press blacklist, a collection of journalists and publications barred from covering the candidate’s events. And while the campaign has largely pulled back on subjecting reporters to Trump’s narcissistic payback, the blacklist was in full swing during the primary elections.
Last November, CNN’s Noah Gray reported that Lewandowski threatened to put him on the media blacklist after he left the designated press area to cover “Migrant Lives Matter” protestors at the Worcester, Mass. rally.
“Hey. Tell Noah, get back in the pen or he’s f**king blacklisted,” Lewandowski told Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, according to the Washington Post.
Gray later posted a video of his confrontation with Lewandowski, showing the campaign manager taunting the reporter about staying “inside the pen.”
“Inside the pen, or I will pull your credentials,” Lewandowski said. “Media goes in the pen. I’m telling you. I’m telling you. Media stays in the pen.”
5. When he physically assaulted reporters covering Trump.
The former campaign manager’s most egregious attacks on reporters were physical altercations that should have immediately disqualified him from joining a news organization.
In March, Buzzfeed reported that Lewandowski “physically pushed” CNN’s Noah Gray (the same Gray whom Lewandowski previously threatened with the media blacklist) at a press conference in Palm Beach, Fla. According to sources, Gray was attempting to ask Trump a question.
Lewandowski’s actions toward Gray are indicative of a larger pattern of physical attacks on members of the press. That same month, former Breitbart journalist Michelle Fields tweeted a picture of bruises on her arms, noting that Lewandowski grabbed her by the arm and physically pulled her back to stop the reporter from asking Trump a question.
I guess these just magically appeared on me @CLewandowski_ @realDonaldTrump. So weird. https://t.co/oD8c4D7tw3— Michelle Fields (@Michelle Fields)1457636528.0
Fields filed a police report with Jupiter, Fla. police, who launched an investigation into charges of battery. In response, Lewandowski and the entire Trump campaign went into full-denial mode, slandering Fields as a liar and an opportunist.
@MichelleFields you are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.— Corey R. Lewandowski (@Corey R. Lewandowski)1457674110.0
“The accusation … is entirely false,” Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks said. “The individual has never met Corey, nor had the only reporter that supposedly identified him.”
Three days later, video emerged supporting Fields’ claim. Reports indicate Lewandowski still refused to apologize to the reporter. Jupiter police eventually declined to pursue a case against Lewandowski, who would go on to land a gig on CNN while Fields was forced to leave Breitbart after her employer questioned the veracity of her claim.
Fields now works as a political reporter for the Huffington Post, but she had this to say about CNN’s newest hire: “I think it’s sad that a news network would hire someone who pushed one of their reporters and threatened them.…My heart goes out to all his new female coworkers who will have to deal with him daily. I imagine CNN HR will be busy this year."