Correspondents’ Association: Campaign Trail Getting Out of Hand

In the wake of an alleged violent incident involving a reporter and a member of Donald Trump's staff, the association that represents White House correspondents says that the candidates' approach to the media needs to change.

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) says that the presidential campaign trail is getting too rowdy, and it wants the candidates and their staffers to change their tactics.

The association spoke up this week after an alleged incident in which Donald Trump’s campaign manager was accused of grabbing a female reporter’s arm and nearly knocking her to the ground. The Trump camp has denied the claim. Michelle Fields, a reporter for the conservative news outlet Breitbart, claims that the incident took place during a Trump event in Florida on Tuesday.

A Washington Post reporter who was on the scene backed up the claim, and audio of the incident acquired by Politico seems to support Fields’ version of events.

The Washington Post’s Ben Terris immediately remarked that it was Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who aggressively tried to pull me to the ground,” Fields wrote in a first-person account. “I quickly turned around and saw Lewandowski and Trump exiting the building together. No apology. No explanation for why he did this.”

Lewandowski has flatly denied the allegations, to the point where he has publicly questioned Fields’ character in tweets, pondering whether she was “attention seeking” or “totally delusional.” One of Fields’ own coworkers even questioned her account, which led to his suspension.

It’s under these circumstances that the WHCA spoke up on Thursday.

Concerns About “Strident Rhetoric”

While the association emphasized its board members had not personally witnessed the incident in question, the association’s president, Carol Lee, emphasized that acts of violence against journalists should be condemned by “all contenders for the nation’s highest office.”

But the association emphasized that, beyond what is claimed to have happened between Fields and Lewandowski, the presidential campaigns need to hold themselves to a higher degree of civility.

“A healthy skepticism of the news media is as much a necessary part of a healthy democracy as skepticism of any institution, and strident rhetoric in politics is not new,” WCHA’s Lee, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, said in a statement. “We have been increasingly concerned with some of the rhetoric aimed at reporters covering the presidential race and urge all candidates seeking the White House to conduct their campaigns in a manner that respects the robust back-and-forth between politicians and the press that is critical to a thriving democracy.”

Donald Trump met with press in the spin room after a recent Republican debate. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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