Meryl Streep’s denunciation of Donald Trump at the 2017 Golden Globes focused on his mockery of a disabled reporter, and provoked a Twitter reaction from Trump to the “over-rated” actress: “For the 100th time, I never ‘mocked’ a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16-year-old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!”
But it’s Trump, not the media, who was being dishonest. Trump was willing to lie over and over again in an attempt to pretend that he had never done this.
It all began when Trump claimed he had seen television reports about “thousands” of Arabs in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks. When everybody pointed out that Trump was wrong, he desperately searched for any evidence that this happened, and stumbled upon a Washington Post report by Serge Kovaleski that mentioned how police in New Jersey “questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks.” But when Kovaleski observed that none of the reports were confirmed, and that they never approached the “thousands” of people celebrating on TV that Trump claimed to see, Trump turned upon him.
At a rally, Trump mocked Kovaleski, who suffers from arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his arms, and causes his hands to be in a very distinctive position. Trump did an imitation of Kovaleski’s physical disability while mocking what he said.
Trump has always tried to deny that he had done what he did. Trump declared in a statement, “I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski (sic) is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence. I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago.”
In reality, Kovaleski had interviewed Trump dozens of times as a New York Daily News reporter in the late 1980s and had been on a first-name basis with him. Trump asserted, “Despite having one of the all-time great memories I certainly do not remember him.”Trump claimed, “Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago — if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did.” It’s heartening to imagine that Trump is so committed to equality that he doesn’t see obvious physical disabilities; but nobody really believes this.
At another rally, Trump said of Kovaleski, “he changed the article, he said he made a mistake.” Kovaleski never changed the article and never said he made a mistake. But Trump asserted, “I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know he was disabled. I didn’t know it. I didn’t know it at all.” Trump then claimed to be doing an imitation of a reporter “groveling.”
With his bent hand, he was clearly doing a very specific imitation of Kovaleski. This fact is confirmed by what Trump said during the imitation: “the poor guy, you gotta see this guy.”
If Trump had no idea what Kovaleski looked like and had never seen him before, why would he say, “you gotta see this guy”? Clearly, Trump was claiming to be doing a physical re-enactment of how Kovaleski reacted, which would be impossible unless Trump had seen him. If Trump didn’t remember who Kovaleski was, why did he suddenly imitate someone with a disability?
And why would Trump call him “the poor guy”? Normally, Trump never expresses sympathy for the people he attacks. The only reason why Trump would call Kovaleski a “poor guy” is because Trump knew he had a physical disability and was trying convey some sympathy for him (while denouncing him and ridiculing his physical appearance).
The most vile part of Trump’s performance as worst actor in a political diatribe is that it shows how far Trump is willing to go in defense of his lies. Merely to avoid some criticism, Trump pretended not to know a reporter, and fabricated a completely unbelievable story to deny the truth. If Trump was willing to create such an intricate series of lies to cover up a minor embarrassment to himself, imagine what he will do to cover up actual wrongdoing as president.
Adapted from “Trump Unveiled: Exposing the Bigoted Billionaire” from OR Books (www.trumpunveiled.com) by John K. Wilson.