Friday, April 15, 2016

The Troubling Development in the Lewandowski-Fields Fiasco

I usually feel like I have lived two lifetimes. The first was that of a news reporter, chasing stories on deadline and crashing into whichever politician, law enforcement authority or shady business that got in my way. The second is my current life, that of a freelancer and single mom to a boy on the autistic spectrum. My current life is not at all like the former, as you can see. So when a story like the Corey Lewandowski-Michelle Fields fracas hits, I'm intensely curious about what happened, given that previously, I found myself rubbing elbows frequently with people like Lewandowski.

Until this morning, I was firmly in the Fields camp. And anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I am hugely outspoken against Trump. (How can a "journalist" spout their personal views? That's a topic for another blog, but the short answer is that I no longer cover politics as a beat, therefore I am speaking out as a private citizen. But let's get back to this matter at hand -- the night in question.)

You can hit this link and read Lewandowski's words for yourself (, but in the meantime, let me shed some perspective:

When I was in Fields' shoes, I was about her age, covering politics for AP in the Pennsylvania statehouse. Before that, I also covered court trials for a tiny newspaper in a little-known town, Elkton, Maryland. I also covered local school districts for a mid-sized newspaper in York, Pennsylvania at another paper. In all three assignments, I dealt with characters who seemed to stop at nothing to prevent me from getting the information I needed for a story. And I was not at all shy about standing up for myself and demanding answers. There were several times when I got into shouting matches with these people, and as unprofessional as it sounds, for me, it was effective. That's because, like Fields, I looked on the outside like a female who could be pushed around. However, I used this to my advantage. I allowed people to think that I was unobtrusive and easily cowed. When they put a toe over the line, I'd drop the hammer. And they never forgot it, either -- and I always got my story.

Now here's the thing about the Lewandowski interview that bugs me:

He claims that he called Fields that night to discuss the matter AND that he has cell phone records to prove that he placed that call.

We already know that he lied about grabbing her. That much has been established with the video tape and the photos of the bruises on her arms, and I am not excusing that at all. And because he lied, we might say that he is probably lying about calling her.


He has cell phone records that he placed the call.

Now this is why this is important:

Even though I had no problems going head to head with someone who tried to run roughshod over me like Lewandowski did Fields, I can ALSO tell you that in each and every case, the person ALWAYS called me to apologize.

This is why I believe Lewandowski, because this happened with me as a reporter countless times.

Maybe Fields didn't get the call. Maybe she was in the bathroom taking the photos of her arm when her cell phone chimed, and she was too upset to talk. Maybe she wanted to run the situation by her editors before talking to Lewandowski, because they of course would have to collaborate about an approach to a subsequent story.

But even if that was the case, when someone calls you, you know they've called. As a reporter who is covering a news event, it's incumbent on you to pick up the phone, even if you don't want to talk to them, and have it out.

And you know what?

If they apologize, you accept their apology, and you move forward.

In each and every case when someone apologized to me, I said, "Thank you. I accept your apology." And then even if I felt like they were 100 percent in the wrong, I still always added, "You know, few people realize I have an Irish temper and am a hot head. So I'm sorry for my part in this."

I'm not saying Fields would have had to apologize for anything, because truthfully, she didn't do anything wrong here. She was a reporter out to get a quote, and she was probably on deadline, and any reporter worth their salt is going to chase down the source and get that needed quote. Absolutely, I would have done what she did, and I did on countless occasions.

However, if Lewandowski called her afterwards, that was her opportunity to say, "Dude, do you realize how hard you grabbed me? I lost my balance. I have bruises on my arm! I just needed a quote, and this is why I went after your candidate."

That would have opened up the opportunity for her to then forge a valuable source relationship with Lewandowski, because at that point, he is beholden to her. She's in the driver's seat going forward.

And yes, I can say this definitively, because this happened to me personally. I always established a positive relationship going forward, and if they tried to block me from getting information, I always found a way around them. I always chased the story as if it were a game to me. The "Lewandowskis" were just pawns standing in front of the queen on the chess board.

We don't know what Lewandowski's motives were that night, and of course, everything out of his mouth is highly suspect going forward. We're not in his head.

But if he has cell phone records, proving that he made that call, it was incumbent on Fields at that point to accept the call, accept the apology, discuss things like a grownup, pursue an exclusive interview with Donald Trump (that's how I handled similar situations, and I always got those interviews) ... and let this guy know going forward that she was not to be treated like a Barbie doll.

That's it.

If you find yourself in a situation like Fields, first fight for that story. That's your job, and she did so valiantly. But if the person comes back later to apologize, you stand to lose everything if you refuse to pick up the phone -- and you stand to gain a lot personally, professionally and ethically by talking to the person who wronged you.

And in the process, you will earn their respect, whether they admit it or not.

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