The disabled New York Times reporter who was allegedly mocked by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a South Carolina campaign rally on Nov. 24 says the two did know one another, despite Trump’s claims they have never met (video below).
“I dispute Trump’s claims in today’s NYT,” reporter Serge Kovaleski tweeted.
“I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski [sic], is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence,” Trump said, according to The New York Times.
He continued, “Despite having one of the all-time great memories, I certainly do not remember him. What I do know is that after 14 years and no retraction, this reporter tried to pull away from the tailgate party paragraph he wrote many years ago for The Washington Post.”
At a campaign rally, Trump referred to a 2001 Washington Post article, where he claims Kovaleski reported that there were “thousands and thousands” of people “cheering” the fall of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist 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,” Kovaleski wrote for The Washington Post a week after 9/11.
Trump called Kovaleski a “nice guy” at the rally before going on to hold his hands up while shaking as he said, “Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy … ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’” (video below).
Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, which limits the functioning of his joints.
Trump claims he was not imitating him during his comments but “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. If I did know, I would definitely not say anything about his appearance,” Trump added.
Kovaleski told The New York Times on Nov. 26 that he met Trump repeatedly when he was a reporter for The Daily News.
“Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” Kovaleski said. “I’ve interviewed him in his office. I’ve talked to him at press conferences. All in all, I would say around a dozen times, I’ve interacted with him as a reporter while I was at The Daily News.”
The New York Times came to the defense of Kovaleski, issuing the following statement: “We’re outraged that he would ridicule the physical appearance of one of our reporters.”
According to the Washington Post, Trump fired back at the newspaper, saying, "They should focus on the survival of their newspaper and not on dishonest and very bad reporting about me. The New York Times has become more and more irrelevant and rapidly becoming a total joke — sad!”
A petition on Change.org is calling for Trump to apologize to Kovaleski; it has been signed by 1,284 people by Nov. 27, with a goal of 1,500. Petition creator Gideon Resnick, reporter for The Daily Beast, wrote:
“Presidential candidate Donald Trump mocked the physical handicap of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski during a rally in South Carolina on Tuesday night. While I think many people would agree that Mr. Trump has a lot more to apologize than for just this, I figured it'd be a good start to formally request that he write a letter apologizing for these actions specifically.”