Donald Trump is under fire for appearing to mock a New York Times reporter's congenital condition at a campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this week.
“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, jerking his body in an apparently similar fashion to Serge Kovaleski, an investigative reporter for the Times whose condition, arthrogryposis, affects his joints and limits arm movement.
Trump was berating a Washington Post article written by Kovaleski in the week following 9/11 about an insidious, still unsubstantiated rumor: That police witnessed (and later detained) Muslims in Jersey City, NJ supposedly throwing "tailgate-style parties" and cheering from rooftops as the World Trade Center smoked across the Hudson River. The reality television star and business mogul turned Republican presidential candidate appeared to bolster this rumor by retweeting an apparent supporter and their link to InfoWars story Wednesday:
And in a series of tweets published Thursday, Trump claims to have no memory of ever meeting Kovaleski and that he was merely "showing a person groveling to take back a statement made long ago."
“I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski [sic] is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence. I don’t know if he is J.J. Watt or Muhammad Ali in his prime—or somebody of less athletic or physical ability,” Trump said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Despite having one of the all-time great memories I certainly do not remember him.”
The Times told The Associated Press that the paper is shocked Trump would "ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters."
Kovaleski, for his part, isn't buying Trump's line; he covered Trump for the New York Daily News from 1987 to 1993. “Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” Kovaleski told the New York Times. “I’ve interviewed him in his office.”
Aleksander Chan is Fusion's News Director.