A day after he was widely rebuked for mocking a reporter with a physical disability, business mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump on Thursday denied that he had done so and accused the reporter of “using his disability to grandstand.”
Trump also demanded an apology from the New York Times, the reporter’s employer, which earlier in the week issued a statement condemning Trump for ridiculing “the appearance of one of our reporters.”
The incident occurred Tuesday at a rally in South Carolina, as Trump was defending his recent claim that he had witnessed thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, as the World Trade Center towers collapsed. On stage, Trump berated Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski for his recent recollection of an article he wrote a few days after the attacks, which Trump has been citing to defend his claim.
Trump appeared to mock Kovaleski’s physical condition; the reporter has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits flexibility in his arms.
“Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’ ” Trump said as he jerked his arms in front of his body.
At a rally in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Nov. 24, 2015, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks about New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski . (Reuters)
Trump’s assertions about Muslims celebrating in 2001 have been fact-checked and discredited by law enforcement and government officials who were in New Jersey in the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks.
Trump has defended his recollections by citing a 2001 article by Kovaleski, who worked for The Washington Post at the time and wrote that “authorities 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.”
Those allegations were never corroborated but have persisted in online rumors in the 14 years since the attacks. In an interview on CNN this week, Kovaleski said he did not recall “anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.”
That is the statement that apparently drew Trump’s ire on Tuesday.
“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,” said Kovaleski, who frequently covered Trump while reporting for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993.
In a statement Thursday, Trump adamantly denied that his comments or gestures were meant to mock Kovaleski. He also denied remembering Kovaleski at all — “despite having one of the all-time great memories.”
“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,” Trump said. “He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.”
Serge Kovaleski on April 21, 2010, in New York. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Kovaleski said in an interview this week that he’s sure Trump remembers him — and his disability. Trump indicated as much himself in the speech Tuesday, when he said, before he began an apparent impersonation with a series of jerking arm movements, that the article had been “written by a nice reporter.”
In his statement Thursday, Trump said: “I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski [sic] is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence. I don’t know if he is J.J. Watt or Muhammad Ali in his prime — or somebody of less athletic or physical ability. Despite having one of the all-time great memories I certainly do not remember him.”
Trump added that he thought Kovaleski’s recollections about his 2001 article “seemed like (again without knowing what he looks like) he was groveling and searching for a way out from what he wrote many years before.”
In Kovaleski’s comments to CNN and other news organizations, the reporter pointed out that there were never any reports of thousands or even hundreds of Muslims celebrating, as Trump has claimed to have witnessed. Kovaleski has not contradicted the 14-year-old article.
Kovaleski’s friends and colleagues took to social media this week to excoriate Trump.
“The measure of men. Know this: Serge Kovaleski, aka @sergenyt, is a journalistic rock star and one great colleague,” Times reporter Dan Barry wrote on Twitter.
“@sergenyt is one of the best reporters — and best people— I know. This is despicable,” ESPN reporter and author Don Van Natta Jr. wrote.
Trump took specific aim at the Times in his statement Thursday.
“They should focus on the survival of their newspaper and not on dishonest and very bad reporting about me,” he said. “The New York Times has become more and more irrelevant and rapidly becoming a total joke — sad!”
A Times representative declined Thursday to add to the paper’s earlier statement.
Jose A. DelReal covers national politics for The Washington Post.
The closing ceremony of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter Square on Dec. 9, 1965. Forty bishops pledged to forsake worldly goods, but the agreement was largely ignored. Pope Francis' emphasis on helping the poor has revived talk about the Pact of the Catacombs.
Pope Francis' Emphasis On Poverty Revives The 'Pact of The Catacombs'
A half-century ago, 40 bishops from around the world gathered in an ancient Roman church and signed a pledge to forsake worldly goods and live like the neediest among their flock.
They were in Rome for the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the deliberations that opened the Catholic Church to the modern world.
The bishops' all but forgotten pledge, known as the Pact of the Catacombs, has gained new resonance with Pope Francis' vision of a church for the poor.
Under the vaulted ceiling of the basilica, a mass is being celebrated to commemorate the pact signed here in 1965. We are just above the Catacombs of Domitilla — many miles of tunnels lined with the tombs of early Christians.
One of the celebrants of the mass is the only surviving bishop of the original 40 who signed the pact, Monsignor Luigi Bettazzi, now 92.
Monsignor Luigi Bettazzi, now 92, is the last survivor among the 40 bishops who signed the the Pact of the Catacombs in 1965. He says Pope Francis, with his emphasis on serving the poor, is a living symbol of what the bishops were seeking to accomplish.
Sylvia Poggioli / NPR
"A group of bishops organized the meeting at the Catacombs of Domitilla ... most of us learned about it by word of mouth," he says.
By signing the Pact of the Catacombs, the bishops pledged "to try to live according to the ordinary manner of our people in all that concerns housing, food, means of transport."
"We renounce forever the appearance and the substance of wealth, especially in clothing ... and symbols made of precious metals," the document said.
Within a few months, some 500 bishops had signed the pact.
But it was soon forgotten, with hardly a mention in the history books about the Second Vatican Council.
One reason, suggested Bettazzi, was that "Pope Paul VI was afraid that too much emphasis on the church of the poor would spill into politics. It was the peak of the Cold War, it could appear the church was leaning toward one side."
Or more specifically, the communist side.
Church historian Alberto Melloni says the pact is probably one of the Catholic Church's best-kept secrets.
"The Pact of the Catacombs is the outcome of long effort at Vatican II to put poverty at the core of the council and this effort failed," he said.
But in one part of the world — Latin America — the pact did not disappear.
Erwin Krautler, the bishop of a Brazilian diocese in the Amazon for 34 years, advocates for the rights of landless peasants and indigenous people. He upholds the principles of the Pact of the Catacombs.
"This pact is an expression of what we call these days, theology of liberation," he said.
Liberation theology is a Catholic grassroots movement that spread throughout Latin America in the 1970s but was scorned by Popes John Paul II and his successor Pope Benedict XVI, who said it was inspired by Marxism. The Vatican disciplined many of its proponents.
Mass is held in the Catacombs of Domitilla, where 40 bishops worked out a pact in 1965 agreeing to live like the poor they served.
Sylvia Poggioli / NPR
Melloni, the church historian, said the Pact of the Catacombs that inspired liberation theology undermined centuries of tradition that had put the Vatican at the center of church power.
Liberation theology "was saying that the center of Catholicism is not Rome, not even the pope, but the real poor, and this was a challenge and the real challenge of this papacy today," Melloni said.
But his lifestyle — shunning the apostolic palace for a room in a Vatican guesthouse — and his vision of the church as what he calls a "field hospital to heal the wounded," are reviving interest in the 50-year-old document.
Laquan McDonald was shot to death by Officer Jason Van Dyke of the Chicago Police Department on October 20, 2014. On November 24, 2015, the department was finally forced to release its dashboard camera footage of the shooting, after losing a court battle to keep it private.
Here are the upsetting numbers behind McDonald's death.
3: The length, in inches, of the knife blade McDonald had in his hand when he was shot.
10: The approximate number of feet Officer Van Dyke was standing from McDonald when he began firing.
16: The number of bullets Van Dyke fired into McDonald's body.
14: The number of seconds it took Van Dyke to fire those 16 shots.
13: The number of those seconds McDonald was on the ground.
A Tennessee woman is facing multiple charges including attempted first-degree murder for driving around shooting at people, leading a police chase, and pointing her gun at an officer.
Julia Shields, 45, drove around a Chattanooga neighborhood Friday just before 4pm dressed in body armor, randomly shooting into vehicles, WRCB reports.
Officers responded to a call from two victims who said Shields pulled up to their vehicle at a stop sign in a dark colored sedan and began firing into the car. No one was reportedly hurt.
Shields is alleged to have driven around town shooting at people in other vehicles. Police were called and she was found in a parking lot, where she then led police on a chase and continued to point her weapon at passing cars,and at police during the chase. And if that isn't shocking enough here's the real kicker.
Shields was taken into custody without incident or injury and charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, seven counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, felony evading arrest, and felony reckless endangerment, according to WRCB.
Without incident? Without injury? Now what on earth could be the reason for that completely unexpected result? How, pray tell, could this alleged perpetrator, who unlike all the previous examples was not only armed with a genuine real weapon - had used it multiple times - how is it this woman wasn't instantly dead as soon a police had a good clear shot at her? How's that even possible, because it seems to me we've been told over and over againthat if police don't react the way that they did with Garner, Brown, Rice, Crawford and Hunt, we'd being seeing more Cop Funerals, wouldn't we?
What could it be that's different about this case compared to those? Maybe I'm dumb, but I just can't figure it out.
This is profoundly personal to me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. And I said to him, I did.
Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we've had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.
This was apparently such a vicious affront to police, one that was so clearly "anti-Cop" that it was deserving of displays of disrespect such as this.
The boos also came with a few cries of “traitor” and heckling during his brief remarks.
“Let’s be honest about the realities of our society. You will confront all the problems that plague our society — problems that you didn’t create,” de Blasio said.
“You did!” someone then yelled, prompting laughter and applause.
Right, because it's all Mayor de Blasio's fault that people have distrust in the motives and actions of police, particularly when dealing with young African-American men. Mayor de Blasio did that. Just like Mayor de Blasio was responsible for these Officers who decided that someone literally Dancing the Street in response to a "dare" from Ellen Degeneris had apparently crossed a bridge too far in the personal affront category.
“I challenge the viewers to sneak up behind perfect strangers, to dance behind them without them knowing it,” Degeneres said on her show. Previous “dance dares” have featured pregnant viewers, as well as viewers dancing at the Golden Gate Bridge and in front of JCPenney stores, among other settings.
BOK subsequently shot footage of himself dancing behind strangers inside Grand Central Station. In one scene, he dances behind a pair of officers without being caught, seemingly without incident.
But when he approaches the other officer from behind a police vehicle, the encounter quickly escalates. The officer approaches him and asks, “What’s wrong with you, bro?” as two more officers immediately join him. The officer backs BOK into the vehicle and places his hand on his chest. BOK is turned around and seemingly frisked.
At that point, a message appears on the screen saying, “After explaining what we were doing they kept going, insulting me … After endless attempts, realizing they cannot arrest me… they threw me on the ground.”
Yeah, that's sobering. If humorless, asshole, violent Cops like these are expecting the blind trust and support of the public, they've got another think coming.