Donald Trump Criticized for Mocking Disabled Reportershortly after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, France, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was on the campaign trail in Alabama. Trump referenced the Paris attacks by invoking the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York in 2001, in the process not only repeating the long since debunked claim that crowds of “Arabs” (or “Muslims” or “Palestinians”) were seen in local streets cheering the attack, but claiming that he had personally witnessed the phenomenon:
After Trump was widely criticized for attempting to pass off an urban legend as fact, the candidate responded by citing as proof of his claim an 18 September 2001 Washington Post article by reporter Serge Kovaleski that made passing reference to “people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks”:In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned 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.
When Kovaleski pointed out that there were never any reports (not even unsubstantiated ones) of “thousands” or even “hundreds” of people celebrating the 9/11 attacks in the New York area, as Trump claimed to have witnessed, Trump countered with a retort in which he criticized the journalist for attempting to “back away” from his previous article and visually mocked Kovaleski’s physical appearance.
Serge Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a condition which limits the movement of joints and is particularly noticeable in Kovaleski’s right arm and hand. After referring to Kovaleski as “a nice reporter,” Trump launched into a seeming impression of him, pointedly flopping his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while saying (in imitation of Kovaleski): “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said'”
After Trump then became the center of a second, even bigger controversy for having callously mocked a disabled reporter in public, Trump asserted that the whole thing was just a coincidence — he had no idea who Kovaleski was and thus couldn’t have been aware of his physical condition.