The New York Times is outraged that Donald Trump has appeared to mock one of its reporters who has a physical disability, but the candidate denied Thursday that he was making fun of the reporter.
The latest Trump controversy began during his defense of a recent claim that he had witnessed thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, as the World Trade Center collapsed. Trump’s assertion has since been fact-checked and discredited by law enforcement and government officials who were in New Jersey in the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks.
The Chicago Tribune adds:
“Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!” Trump said as he jerked his arms in front of his body.
The gesture was all the more personal because Kovaleski covered Trump while reporting for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, a tumultuous period for Trump in which he struggled through several financial setbacks.
“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.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment on the record about the incident. A campaign official speaking on background said Trump was “not aware of any condition and was not mocking his physical appearance in any way.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Kovaleski said he’s sure Trump remembers him — and his condition.
In his speech Tuesday, Trump defended his recollection of the Muslim revelers by citing a 2001 article by Kovaleski, who worked for The Washington Post at the time, noting that “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.”
The allegations were never corroborated but have persisted as rumors online for nearly 14 years.
Kovaleski said he did not recall “anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating” in a CNN interview this week.
That’s the comment Trump mocked during his speech, but according to the campaign official, Trump “was merely emphasizing the uncertainty of the verbal/written statement provided by the reporter in regards to his article.”
“We think it’s outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters,” a spokesman for the Times said on Wednesday.
The failing @nytimes should be focused on good reporting and the papers financial survival and not with constant hits on Donald Trump!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2015
Trump fired back at the Times late Wednesday: “The failing @nytimes should be focused on good reporting and the papers financial survival and not with constant hits on Donald Trump!”