Donald Trump has caused new controversy after mocking a disabled journalist at a November 24 campaign speech in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The mocking is part of a larger bout between Trump and the reporter Serge F. Kovaleski that began during a November 21 rally for Trump in Birmingham, Alabama.
Kovaleski wrote an article for the Washington Post in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in which he reported that law enforcement in Jersey City, New Jersey, had “detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks…”.
Trump has since used this article as part of a story in which he claims he was in Jersey City during the 9/11 attacks and watched as “thousands and thousands” of Arab and Muslim New Jerseyans cheered and celebrated the devastation across the river.
As Politico notes, the allegations of celebration have been widely debunked, and Politifact has rated the claim as “Pants on Fire”. Yet, Trump has stuck by his claims.
Serge Kovaleski is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has since left the Post and now works for the New York Times. He was born with a condition called arthrogryposis that causes muscle shortening and abnormal fibrosis in muscle tissue amongst other symptoms.
Kovaleski responded to Trump’s November 21 citing of his article saying that, while the report was done 14 years ago, and “Much of that has, indeed, faded from memory…I do not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating. That was not the case, as best as I can remember.”
Trump went on the offensive against Kovaleski’s comments, saying, “Now the poor guy – you ought to see the guy: ‘Uhh I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember.’ He’s going, ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.’” Trump affixed his arms to his chest then flailed them around, as he spoke, in an impression that imitated Kovaleski’s movements.
The New York Times has joined a wide-range of individuals and organizations that have come to Kovaleski’s defense. Politico quotes a New York Times spokeswoman who says, “We think it’s outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters.”
The Trump campaign has been quite on the matter since Tuesday.