We should all have a friend as loyal as Ann Coulter.
The conservative commentator and author of “In Trump We Trust” is defending her candidate for the seemingly indefensible — his apparent mockery of a New York Times reporter’s physical disability during a rally in South Carolina last November. The episode remains sensitive 10 months later, as Hillary Clinton uses footage of Trump jerking his arms around in commercials and 83 percent of voters say they are still bothered by the billionaire’s imitation of journalist Serge Kovaleski.
Coulter wrote in her book, released last week, that Trump was not making fun of Kovaleski’s specific symptoms — he has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits flexibility in his arms — but rather “was doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid.” As if that made it okay. Now Coulter has a new excuse for the Republican presidential nominee, which she presented Wednesday on Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect.”
“Something I didn’t know when I wrote the book, and I’m writing about it in tonight’s column: It is absolutely an outrageous, despicable, deliberate lie that the media has told about Donald Trump mocking a disabled person,” Coulter said. “He would not do that. He said he would not do that. And the proof positive of this is in the exact same speech, he did the exact same imitation of a general. And the media knew that, and they will not show us that clip. He has done the exact same imitation of Ted Cruz, flailing his arms. This is how Donald Trump does an imitation of a flustered, cowardly person or a frightened person.”
Coulter did indeed make the same argument in a column published later in the day by multiple conservative outlets, citing a group called Catholics 4 Trump that previously claimed to have identified the “exact same” imitations. So let’s check out these clips that the media supposedly refuses to show.
Here is Trump ridiculing Kovaleski:
And here is Trump aping the general at the same event:
Both impressions involve open-mouthed hand-waving, but there are obvious differences. Only when Trump mocks Kovaleski does he curl his right hand and wrist in a way that mimics the effect of the reporter’s condition.
And only when Trump mocks Kovaleski does he simulate involuntary spasms. Coulter and other Trump apologists have pointed out that Kovaleski does not convulse the way Trump did on the stage. To be sure, his motions are more subtle.
But the fact that Trump’s act was exaggerated hardly proves it wasn’t a reference to Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis. It’s also impossible to ignore what Trump said right before his impression — “You’ve got to see this guy” — and what Kovaleski said afterward: “Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years. I’ve interviewed him in his office. I’ve talked to him at news conferences. All in all, I would say around a dozen times I’ve interacted with him as a reporter.”
Trump has claimed not to know what Kovaleski looks like.
What about Coulter’s claim that Trump “has done the exact same imitation of Ted Cruz”? Here is that clip:
It’s definitely closer than Trump’s impression of the general but, again, the wrist and finger contortions are missing. What’s more, this footage of Trump making fun of Cruz is from February, after the original controversy.
Coulter’s contention that the media lied about Trump’s mockery of Kovaleski with full knowledge that he had done the “exact same” thing to other, non-disabled people just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The imitations are not identical, and the one involving Cruz happened three months later, meaning journalists obviously could not have known about it when they criticized Trump for his meanness toward a colleague.