After a torrential week of reporting, hearsay, new evidence, outright denials and character assassinations, Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields has resigned from the conservative news site following its handling of her alleged assault by Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. In addition, her colleague and supporter Ben Shapiro, an editor-at-large for Breitbart, has also resigned his post at the media outlet founded by Andrew Breitbart in 2007.
In two separate statements obtained by BuzzFeed, Fields and Shapiro announced their departure from the company late Sunday night. Fields explained that she had “informed the management at Breitbart News of my immediate resignation” because the organization hadn’t “adequately stood by me during the events of the past week.” As a result, she thought it was “best for us to part ways.”
Meanwhile, Shapiro took the opportunity to produce a seven-paragraph screed chastising Breitbart chair Steve Bannon and the media group as a whole.
Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter, Breitbart News’ Michelle Fields, in order to protect Trump’s bully campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who allegedly assaulted Michelle.
On Tuesday, March 8, Fields was covering a press conference held by Trump in Jupiter, Florida when the incident occurred. Per her account and that of Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, Lewandowski grabbed Fields’ arm and violently yanked her away from Trump when she tried to ask him a question about the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and affirmative action. Though her pro-Trump employers hesitated at first, Breitbart chief executive Larry Solov came out in the reporter’s defense in a statement arguing that “Corey owes Michelle an immediate apology.” Instead, her claims were met with ridicule — both from Trump’s people and from her own.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly brought up the latter during an interview with Fields on Friday, asking how she felt that her own editors had “cast doubt” on whether or not Lewandowski grabbed her. “I think the facts show that this happened,” Fields responded, “and it’s a shame that my bosses have decided to come out against the facts.”
Across the 24-hour cable news spectrum, another Friday night interview concerning the alleged assault occurred between CNN’s Don Lemon and former Breitbart spokesperson Kurt Bardella. Bardella, who’d recently announced his public relations company’s decision to part ways with its client, discussed whether or not the departure had anything to do with Fields’ accusations. Not only were the two related, but Bardella had some rather damning things to say about the conservative news site.
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) March 12, 2016
“I personally felt that Breitbart hadn’t adequately supported Michelle Fields, one of their own reporters, through this whole ordeal,” he explained. “I just disagree with the course of which they’ve been covering this [story].” And Lemon asked Bardella if he was saying that Breitbart was “lying,” the spokesperson pointedly responded, “Yes I am.”
On Saturday, BuzzFeed received and released private and group Slack chats between Breitbart employees covering the story. The new evidence lent additional credence to Fields’ and Bardella’s claims that the organization wasn’t standing by its own employee, as editor-at-large Joel Pollak repeatedly told writers not to tweet or retweet coverage of the story from other outlets. And whenever Lewandowski and others with direct ties to the incident began openly mocking Fields online, Pollak said the same.
“STOP tweeting about the story. Stop speculating about the story,” Pollak told staffers in one message, and reminded them that “you were given explicit instructions.”
“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,” Pollak said in one of the chats. “That is why we have to be patient, and coordinate our responses.”
Breitbart published an article condemning Shapiro’s departure on Monday morning. Among other points, the post claimed that Shapiro was “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” and that he’d “violated virtually every clause in his employment contract during an appearance on The Kelly File last Thursday evening.”
Most of the article had to do with the former editor-at-large. However, the final line of the piece acknowledged Fields’ resignation with a brief quip: “Alleged Fox News contributor Michelle Fields also resigned.”
The Breitbart post was taken down soon after publication, though it was archived. Business Insider’s Colin Campbell and others had managed to obtain screenshots of the article.
Pollak issued an apology, claiming that he’d written the post “as part of an effort to make light of a significant company event” that “was published as a result of a misunderstanding without going through the normal editorial channels.” He directly apologized to both Shapiro and Fields on behalf of Breitbart.
As of this writing, neither Trump nor Lewandowski have responded officially to Fields and Shapiro’s resignation.