Someone once said that there are usually three sides to any story involving a conflict between two people. In a conflict involving more than two, well…
As is being reported by numerous news outlets, popular analysts Ben Shapiro and Michelle Fields resigned from Breitbart News this weekend over the way that publication handled allegations that Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski assaulted Fields at an event for the GOP front-runner last Wednesday. Shapiro resigned, presumably in solidarity with Fields.
I can’t stand with an organization that won’t stand by me: https://t.co/pohxCKScpf
— Michelle Fields (@MichelleFields) March 14, 2016
I’ve met Fields, never met Shapiro, but I’ve had some brief dealings with some of Trump’s inner circle who will for now remain nameless because it isn’t important, and because I’d rather end a fight and start one. I will, for the record, convey my firsthand assessment that those in Trump’s very small inner circle can be pretty arrogant knuckleheads at times.
That said, if I were in Trump’s shoes, I might want arrogant knuckleheads acting as my gatekeepers also.
I have no intention of saying what I think happened between Fields and Lewandowski because I wasn’t there. Given what I know of Ms. Fields, I seriously doubt that she would bear false witness against Lewandowski even if she despised Trump as a candidate. I also think it’s nonsense to presume that either Fields or Shapiro are attempting to exploit Breitbart.com’s lack of reaction to the incident in order to bolster their careers. Neither of them need to do so.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 14, 2016
It’s possible that Lewandowski manhandled Michelle Fields, and if she and witnesses in attendance said so (which they did), then there would have been nothing at all wrong with Breitbart.com holding Lewandowski accountable – in fact, they should have. Continued demands for an apology from Lewandowski – even if the brass was uncertain of what transpired – would have looked much better than having a top reporter and a top editor quit over the fracas. Having Lewandowski apologize – even if he believed himself faultless –would have looked much better for the Trump camp than gaining a rep as a bunch of arrogant knuckleheads.
In his resignation, Shapiro expressed regret that the site had abandoned the principles of its founder, Andrew Breitbart. This may have been overstated, but the publication’s smear of Shapiro and Fields (later deleted from the website) was definitely overkill, and very unprofessional. I don’t think that Breitbart readers are going to believe for a moment their retraction (by Breitbart News Editor-at-Large and In-House Counsel Joel B. Pollak) which explained away the smear as some sort of an inside joke that was never intended for publication.
My assessment may be a bit of an oversimplification, but I don’t think by much: The brass at Breitbart were torn between standing by their reporter (Fields) and alienating the Trump campaign, for which they obviously have an affinity. Unfortunately, I don’t think they saw the distinction between calling Trump’s campaign manager out for being an ass (or an alleged ass, as the case may be) and condemning Trump’s candidacy. Minimizing the incident only alienated Fields, and by extension Shapiro.
In the end, perhaps Fields and Shapiro reasoned that it wasn’t so much their employers having a bias toward Trump that was offensive, but their demonstrative shamelessness in it that was the deal-breaker.