Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump received massive criticism after he mimicked a reporter’s disability during a campaign speech in South Carolina.
Serge Kovaleski, the New York Times’ culture and investigative reporter, contested Trump’s assertion that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating and cheering the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, as reported by ABC.net.au. The Republican frontrunner cited Kovaleski’s story, which was written a few days following the attacks. Kovaleski was a Washington Post correspondent then.
According to Reuters, that article said that authorities had detained “a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.” Although these accounts have not been validated, the reporter said in a recent interview that he did “not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds of people celebrating. That was not the case, as best I can remember.”
During his speech, Trump criticized the reporter for defying his story. Flailing his arms, trying to imitate the reporter who suffers from a congenital condition that impacts his joint movement and mobility, Trump said, “Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!'”
In a statement, the New York Times said, “We think it’s outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters.” Trump responded on social media, maintaining he did not make fun of the reporter, and that he didn’t even recognize him. “I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago,” the Republican frontrunner posted. “If Mr. Kovaleski is handicapped, I would not know because I do not know what he looks like. If I did know, I would definitely not say anything about his appearance.” Kovaleski was also criticized by Trump for “using his disability to grandstand.”
Meanwhile, Kovaleski said Trump’s behavior did not surprise him. “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 said in an interview.
Friends of Kovaleski showed their support for the reporter on social media. Dan Berry, New York Times journalist, described Kovaleski as a “journalistic rock star and one great challenge.”