The British playwright Patrick Marber once wrote, “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off.” But based on his recent behavior, that aphorism seems better applied to Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
Over the past week, Trump has repeatedly said that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating in northern New Jersey on 9/11. That claim has been disputed by the area’s politicians, police departments and religious leaders, and discredited by every major news outlet that’s looked into the matter.
The only corroborating evidence that Trump has managed to produce is a single Washington Post article from September 18, 2001. In that story, reporter Serge Kovaleski wrote that New Jersey police had detained “a number of people” who “were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks.” Reporters rarely use the term “a number of people” to describe a crowd of thousands. So when Trump began touting the Post article as proof of his claim, Kovaleski felt compelled to clarify his story.
Kovaleski, who now writes for the New York Times, told CNN that in all his shoe-leather reporting around northern New Jersey in the days after 9/11, he could not “recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.”
In light of this new evidence, Trump decided to do the responsible thing and mock Kovaleski’s congenitally disabled right arm.
At a rally in South Carolina on Tuesday, Trump accused Kovaleski of disowning his own reporting for the sake of political correctness.
“Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Trump said, before jerking his arms in apparent imitation of Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis, a condition that impairs joint function. “‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’”
Journalists and disability advocates were none too amused by Trump’s performance. In the face of mounting criticism, Trump released a lengthy statement on Thanksgiving, claiming that he had had no idea that Kovaleski was handicapped.
“I don’t know who this reporter Serge Kovaleski is, what he looks like, or his level of intelligence,” Trump wrote. “I 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.”
But according to Kovaleski, Trump knows exactly what he looks like.
“Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” Kovaleski told the New York Times. “I’ve interviewed him in his office.”
In fact, Kovaleski knows Trump well enough not to be shocked by the billionaire’s insults.
“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 told the Washington Post.