Donald Trump Defends Disabled Reporter Impression: "I Do Not Know What He Looks Like"
"I have tremendous respect for people who are physically challenged and have spent tens of millions of dollars throughout buildings all over the world on making them handicapped accessible and ADA (Americans Disability Act) compliant."
Donald Trump took a moment on Thanksgiving to release a statement on his recent run-in with The New York Times and its reporter, Serge Kovaleski.
Trump has received criticism for referencing Kovaleski, who has a congenital condition that affects joint movement, during a speech on Tuesday in South Carolina.
While describing Kovaleski's Washington Post 2001 story about "a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the [World Trade Center] attacks" — in an effort to support his previous claim that "thousands" of Muslims were doing so — the GOP candidate said, "Now the poor guy, you oughta see this guy — uh, I don't know what I said, uh, I don't remember,'" and gestured in a jerky fashion as if imitating the reporter's movements.
As the Times slammed the Republican presidential candidate — saying, "We think it's outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters" — Trump tweeted a lengthy statement on the controversy, defending his actions and stance against "the financially failing and totally biased New York Times."
"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. I know nothing about him other than I have great respect for the way he wrote the story, on September 18, 2001, and in particular the paragraph talking about Muslims and tailgate parties taking place in New Jersey," he tweeted.
Of his gestures, he explained, "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.
"I have tremendous respect for people who are physically challenged and have spent tens of millions of dollars throughout buildings all over the world on making them handicapped accessible and ADA (Americans Disability Act) compliant," he continued. "With that being said, Mr. Kovaleski should not have tried to pull back from his statement. He should live with it and as a professional stand by what he said."
Read Trump's full comments below.