Donald Trump denies mocking a New York Times reporter’s disability during a campaign speech Tuesday night, saying he’s never seen the reporter before and has no knowledge of his physical appearance.
The Republican presidential candidate outraged The Times after waving his arms in an awkward manner at a rally in South Carolina while talking about a comment made by reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition affecting joint movement.
“We find it’s outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters,” a Times spokesperson told CNNMoney.
Mr. Kovaleski previously worked at The Washington Post and the New York Daily News, and had covered Mr. Trump many times in New York, but the billionaire magnate said he didn’t know Mr. Kovaleski.
“I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski (sic) is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence,” Mr. Trump said in a statement, CNN reported. “Somebody at the financially failing and totally biased New York Times said that, over the years, I have met Mr. Kovaleski. Despite having one of the all-time great memories I certainly do not remember him.”
Mr. Trump said that in his speech at the rally “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.”
In an interview with The Times on Thursday, Mr. Kovaleski said he and Mr. Trump “were on a first-name basis for years.”
“I’ve interviewed him in his office,” he said. “I’ve talked to him at press conferences. All in all, I would say around a dozen times, I’ve interacted with him as a reporter while I was at the Daily News.”
Mr. Trump slammed Mr. Kovaleski in a later statement and demanded an apology from The Times.
“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,” he said, CNN reported. “He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a newspaper that is rapidly going down the tubes.”