27 Nov 2015

Trump criticised for mocking disabled reporter

11:12 am on 27 November 2015

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has been criticised for mocking a New York Times reporter's physical disability.

Mr Trump performed an impression of Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital joint condition, at a rally.

Donald Trump mocks a disabaled journalist At a rally in South Carolina.

Donald Trump mocks a disabaled journalist At a rally in South Carolina. Photo: BBC screengrab

He used an article Mr Kovoleski wrote in 2001 to back up widely disputed claims that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 11 September terror attacks.

At a rally in South Carolina Mr Trump made visible imitations of Mr Kovoleski's condition which causes his limbs to contort.

The New York Times called Mr Trump's actions "outrageous".

Referring to the 2001 article (published by the Washington Post) Mr Trump called Mr Kovaleski "a nice reporter".

"Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy," he continued, before launching into an apparent impression of Mr Kovaleski, waving his arms around with his hands at an odd angle.

"Uhh I don't know what I said. Uhh I don't remember. He's going like 'I don't remember. Maybe that's what I said.'"

Mr Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the movement of joints and is noticeable in his right arm and hand.

A New York Times spokeswoman told news site Politico: "We think it's outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters."

The original Washington Post article by Mr Kovaleski said that authorities in Jersey City "detained and 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".

Since Trump's claims about Muslim Americans celebrating 9/11, the reporter has said he does "not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating".

The mayor of Jersey City has said Mr Trump's claims are "plain wrong".

Mr Kovaleski reported on Mr Trump between 1987 and 1993. He has said he is sure the businessman remembers him and his physical condition, the Washington Post reported.

"The sad part about it is, it didn't in the slightest bit jar or surprise me that Donald Trump would do something this low-rent, given his track record," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Trump's campaign has not officially commented.


Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs