Donald Trump claims his supposed compliance with a federal law requiring his buildings to be accessible to wheelchair users proves that he’d never mock a reporter with a disability.
Trump boasted about building wheelchair ramps and other forms of access for people with disabilities at a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Friday night. He made the bizarre remarks in response to an advertisement Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that attacked him for mocking a reporter with a disability. Trump has been widely criticized for contorting his arms at a November campaign event, in an apparent attempt to mock New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a chronic joint disease that limits his arm movements.
“They do the commercial, like I’m mocking a person with disability. I’m not, I’m not,” the businessman told supporters.
“I spend millions a year, or millions of dollars on ramps, and get rid of the stairs and different kinds of elevators all over and I’m gonna mock? I would never do that,” he continued.
“Number one, I have a good heart. Number two, I’m a smart person.”
Trump made the same argument on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” on Thursday morning. And he also cited his buildings as evidence of his fairness to people with disabilities in an interview with The Washington Post in May.
His remarks imply that building ramps for handicapped people are a reflection of his personal generosity and compassion for people with disabilities. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law passed in 1990, requires Trump to provide accommodations in his buildings for people with disabilities.
People with disabilities have successfully sued a Trump property company and production firm in recent years for unfair treatment that violated the ADA.
A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the former reality TV personality meant to imply that he has gone beyond what he’s legally required to do.
And as Think Progress notes, Trump was not even being completely truthful about his compliance with that law. People with disabilities have successfully sued a Trump property company and production firm in recent years for unfair treatment that violated the ADA.
The controversial incident that is the subject of the Clinton campaign ad occurred when Trump ripped Kovaleski for disavowing the businessman’s interpretation of an article the journalist wrote for The Washington Post a few days after September 11, 2001 attacks. It stated that law enforcement were investigating people “allegedly seen celebrating the attacks.” But Trump had used the article in an effort to substantiate his claims that “thousands and thousands” of Arab Americans in New Jersey had cheered the terrorist event.
Trump said at the time that he had no intention of mocking Kovaleski’s disability, claiming he did not even remember who the reporter was. The real estate mogul repeated that excuse on Friday night as well.
Kovaleski has said that he and Trump were actually on a first-name basis in the 1980s when the reporter was regularly covering the businessman for the New York Daily News. A colleague of Kovaleski’s at the time has confirmed this account.
Trump’s remarks doubling down on these implausible defenses of his behavior are all the more remarkable because of their timing ― in a week that disability rights took center stage at the Democratic National Convention.
Disability rights advocates hailed Clinton’s acceptance speech on Thursday night for putting virtually unprecedented emphasis on the struggles and rights of people with disabilities.
In her speech, Clinton recalled her work for the Children’s Defense Fund securing access to education for people with disabilities.
“We gathered facts. We built a coalition,” Clinton said. “And our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities.”
Anastasia Somoza, a disability rights advocate, spoke at the convention on Monday night, praising Clinton’s record and savaging Trump for his mockery of Kovaleski.
“Donald Trump has shown us who he really is, and I honestly feel bad for anyone with that much hate in their heart,” she said.