Archived: President-Elect Absolutely Mocked Reporter with Disabilities, Despite His Claims to the Contrary

Despite unmistakable video footage and still photos of then-candidate Donald Trump deliberately mocking an individual with disabilities during a campaign rally more than a year ago, Trump now president-elect of the United States still cannot be truthful about his actions.

Trump’s behavior in which he makes gestures and flails his arms clearly imitating New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s physical disability was repeatedly featured in Hillary Clinton’s political ads during the campaign and brought up in the debates.

But it was Meryl Streep’s speech at Sunday’s Golden Globes that resurrected the incident along with Trump’s preposterous denials of mocking Kovaleski despite clearly doing so on video.

In fall of 2015, when Trump was attempting to make his case to ban Muslims from entering the United States, he claimed he had witnessed thousands of people cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In response to critics who said that did not happen, Trump had pointed to a September 18, 2001, Washington Post article that Kovaleski co-wrote, which alluded to reports that some people had been seen cheering. However, Kovaleski, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, in a column accused Trump of mischaracterizing the article and embellishing the facts.

Speaking at a rally in South Carolina, Trump shared an excerpt from Kovaleski’s column before flailing his arms in a way to mimic Kovaleski’s disability, saying, “Now, the poor guy, you ought to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said, I don’t remember, I don’t remember, maybe that’s what I said.'”

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Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that limits the movement of his joints.

In response to criticism for his mockery, Trump insisted, “I don’t mock people that have disabilities, believe me.” He also defiantly claimed not to know Kovaleski or about his disability.

“I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago. If Mr. Kovaleski is handicapped, I would not know because I do not know what he looks like,” Trump said in a statement following the incident.

Kovaleski disputed that claim, saying Trump knew exactly who he was.

“The sad part about it is, it didn’t in the slightest bit jar or surprise me that Donald Trump would do something this low-rent, given his track record,” Kovaleski told the Washington Post at the time. “Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years, I’ve interviewed him in his office, I’ve talked to him in press conferences. All in all I would say around a dozen times.”

During the third presidential debate in Las Vegas, Clinton brought up the incident, saying Trump “went after a disabled reporter, mocked and mimicked him on national television.” Trump interrupted with a simple “Wrong.”

In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump again denied mocking Kovaleski and attacked Meryl Streep for resurfacing the issue the night before.

During an emotional speech at the Golden Globe awards, Streep, who did not name Trump, said, “There was one performance this year that stunned me. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.”

She added,”It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

In his tweets Trump said:

In a follow-up statement to the New York Times Trump said, “I was never mocking anyone. I was calling into question a reporter who had gotten nervous because he had changed his story. People keep saying I intended to mock the reporter’s disability, as if Meryl Streep and others could read my mind, and I did no such thing.”

Doing damage control for her boss, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway insisted to CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Trump was not mocking Kovaleski’s disability.

“That is not what he did and he has said that 1,000 times,” she said. “Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt”

Cuomo responded, “He can say it a million times but look at the video. It’s a gesture that he’s making on video. Everyone can see it.”

“Why is everything taken at face value” Conway responded astonishingly. “You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart, you always want to go with what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”

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