Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday accused Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields of having "made up" her account of being shoved and bruised by someone who was identified by a witness as Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
“I didn't see anything ... But the Secret Service said nothing happened. They said absolutely nothing happened,” Trump told CNN reporter Dylan Byers after the GOP debate in Miami Thursday night. "Perhaps she made the story up. I think that’s what happened.”
Trump repeated the denial to several other journalists on Thursday night, even though audio, photos and witnesses corroborate Fields' account.
CNN debate moderators didn't ask Trump about the reports of his campaign manager's behavior, leaving Trump free to issue denials after the debate, when fewer people were paying attention.
According to those who were present, Lewandowski on Wednesday night grabbed Fields and shoved her after the reporter asked Trump a question about affirmative action at a press conference in Jupiter, Florida. According to audio obtained by Politico, Washington Post reporter Ben Terris saw Lewandowski grab Fields and tried to help her.
“He really just almost threw you down on the ground," Terris can be heard saying to Fields on the tape. "Oh my God, that really spooked me, that someone would do that," Fields replies.
On Thursday, Fields tweeted a photo of bruises on her arm from being grabbed. Terris wrote an article in the Post confirming Fields' account of the assault and identifying Lewandowski as the person who grabbed her.
The Trump campaign, meanwhile, issued a statement calling Fields a liar, and said her account was "entirely false." Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks claimed that "our staff would never do anything to harm another individual."
Roughing up Fields is the latest in a long string of violent episodes that have come to characterize Trump's rallies. The candidate himself has stoked his rowdy crowds. He's told his fans he'd like to "punch [a protester] in the face," and offered to pay the legal bills of anyone who assaults a protester.
On Wednesday, a Trump supporter in North Carolina punched a protester in the face at a Trump rally. The assailant was later charged with assault.
Trump took the opportunity Thursday night to deny any knowledge of the incident involving Fields, and to claim that members of his Secret Service detail agreed with him that Fields had not been assaulted. The Secret Service didn't immediately respond to a call late Thursday.
Editor's Note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.