Trump Mocking Physical Disabilities Is Nothing New

The Republican candidate drew criticism for apparently making fun of a reporter's joint condition.

11/26/2015 11:19 am ET | Updated Nov 26, 2015

Donald Trump apparently mocking a reporter's joint condition has been called a "new low" for his campaign, but in reality it's not the first time the Republican candidate has come under fire for remarks on physical disabilities.

Trump incited backlash this week after he did an impression of The New York Times' reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that affects his joint movements, Politico reports.

Speaking at a South Carolina rally on Tuesday, Trump referenced an article Kovaleski wrote while working for The Washington Post in 2001, noting it was “written by a nice reporter.” He continued, "Now the poor guy -- you ought to see the guy: ‘Uhh I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember!’ He’s going, ‘I don’t remember! Maybe that’s what I said.’”

While quoting Kovaleski, Trump jerked his arms and body and held his hands in a claw-like manner reminiscent of the disease’s symptom.

Trump brought up the article while defending his debunked claim that there were “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey “cheering” while the twin towers went down on September 11.

Kovaleski’s 2001 article noted that authorities 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.” But Kovaleski told CNN this week that he had no memory of “anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.”

Trump released a statement on Twitter Thursday afternoon, stating that he has “no idea” who Kovaleski is. “If Mr. Kovaleski is handicapped, I would not know because I do know what he looks like,” the statement reads. “If I did know, I would definitely not say anything about his appearance." Trump also accused the New York Times of being “dishonest” and trying to “make a story out of nothing.”

An unidentified Trump campaign official told The Washington Post on Wednesday that Trump wasn’t mocking Kovaleski’s appearance and had no idea he had a condition. But Kovaleski, who covered Trump for the New York Daily News for several years in the late 1980s and early ’90s, told The Washington Post that he’s sure Trump remembers him and his physical ailments.

He said that Trump’s behavior “didn’t in the slightest bit jar or surprise me.”

It shouldn’t have, since it’s not the first time Trump has appeared to stoop to deriding someone’s physical disabilities. In July, NBC’s Katy Tur asked Trump about the criticism he received from columnists Charles Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg -- specifically, Krauthammer calling Trump a “rodeo clown.” Trump responded, ““I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune … Then I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?”

Many at the time speculated Trump was making a crack at the fact that Krauthammer is paralyzed from the waist down. Just a few weeks earlier, Trump had derided Krauthammer as a “loser” who “just sits there." Since that comment referred to both Krauthammer and conservative commentator George Will, it's unclear if it was meant to reference Krauthammer's disability, but it was a poor choice of words nonetheless.

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement made by Donald Trump on Twitter.

Contact the author at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com

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