Leading Republican Party candidate Donald Trump was interpreted as making fun of a disabled reporter this past Tuesday, Nov. 23rd during his speech to supporters.
In a previous statement Trump claimed that ‘thousands’ of Muslims in Jersey City had celebrated as the Twin Towers were falling across the river on 9/11.
Trump claimed he was not the only one to witness these celebrations, although no one has publicly agreed with this statement.
Trump referenced an article published a few days after the attacks by Serge Kovaleski of the Washington Post. In this 2001 article Kovaleski wrote, “Law enforcement 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.”
Fast forward to the day before Trump’s South Carolina rally on Nov. 23rd, when Kovaleski told an MSNBC reporter that he did “not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.”
This was fuel added to the flame of rage leading to Trump’s explosion at the rally. While clenching his arm to allegedly imitate Kovaleski- who suffers from arthrogryposis- Trump said in a demeaning tone, “Now, the poor guy — you ought to see the guy: ‘Uh, I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember.”
This caused instant outrage across the nation towards Trump, leaving him on the defensive. He was quick to tweet in response to this backlash, “I do not know the reporter for the @nytimes, or what he looks like. I was showing a person groveling to take back a statement made long ago!” (Nov.26, @realDonaldTrump)
Trump also released a statement to NBC News saying, “I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago.”
Although whether or not Donald Trump actually meant to mimic the reporter will never be known, the evidence supporting Trump’s transgression is compelling.
Despite having a quick response time to the situation, Trump did not have his facts straight because he tweeted to the NY Times when Kovaleski is a writer from the Washington post.
From a PR perspective, his response time to the situation and his blunt way of addressing the events that unfolded were beneficial to his campaign. However, sometimes the quality behind the message is more important than how quickly a response is released, and is something Trump should be more aware of going forward in his campaign.
Trump once again found himself burdened with controversy when expressing his beliefs, and was left to defend himself through a series of conflict management steps.