Serge Kovaleski, Disabled Man Mocked By Trump: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know

Donald Trump mocks disabled, disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski, Donald Trump denies mocking reporter, what is Arthrogryposis

Serge Kovaleski (l) with fellow New York Times reporter Ken Belson. (Getty)

Last November, at a rally in South Carolina, Donald Trump appeared to openly mock a disabled man, a reporter for The New York Times. The shocking incident has dogged Trump on the campaign trail ever since, in particular because his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, has made Trump’s mocking of the disabled a major point in her attacks on his character and his suitability to be president.

The disabled man who Trump mocked was New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who was hired at the Times in 2006 after previously working at the Washington Post and New York Daily News.

Here’s what you need to need to know about him.

1. Trump Mocked Him Over a 15-Year-Old Article

Trump mocks reporter with disabilityDonald Trump is under fire again, this time for mocking a New York Times reporter that suffers from a chronic condition. CNN's John Berman reports2015-11-26T02:32:06.000Z

Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms. At his South Carolina rally on November 24 of last year, Trump flew into a derisive impression of Kovaleski as he claimed that the reporter was backing away from an article he’d written for The Washington Post in 2001.

At that point in his campaign, Trump was under fire for his claim that American muslims “celebrated” the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers by terrorists on September 11, 2001. To supposedly prove his point, Trump pointed to a September 18, 2001 article in the Post written by Kovaleski in which the reporter mentioned police who “detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties.”

The key word in there was “allegedly,” and Kovaleski corrected Trump by saying that there were no credible reports of such celebrations. In response, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was “backing away” from his original reporting. Apparently to underscore his point, Trump declared “you gotta see this guy,” then launched into his mocking impression of Kovaleski at the South Carolina rally, seen in the video above.

2. He is a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Investigative Reporter

In 2009, Kovaleski was part of a team of New York Times reporters who investigated a sex scandal involving New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, forcing Spitzer to resign the governor’s office in March of 2007, after serving barely more than a year, over revelations that he habitually patronized a high-priced escort service, spending thousands on expensive prostitutes.

Kovaleski and his Times colleagues on the investigative team were awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in the “Breaking News” category for their work in exposing Spitzer’s involvement with the prostitution ring.

The reporter was humble about the prestigious award — journalism’s highest honor — telling the alumni magazine from his alma mater, William and Mary University, “I know I’m only as good as my last story.”

Kovaleski, who was born in Cape Town, South Africa, is also married to a Pulitzer Prize winner. His wife and New York Times colleague Jo Becker won a 2008 Pulitzer for her reporting about former United States Vice President Dick Cheney.

3. Trump Claimed He Never Met Kovaleski, But That Was a Lie

When he came under fire for mocking the disabled reporter, Trump claimed that he could not have actually been making fun of Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis disability because he had never met the reporter and didn’t even know what he looked like — despite the fact that Trump himself had prefaced his mocking impression by saying, “you gotta see this guy!”

“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,” Trump said.

The candidate went on to accuse Kovaleski of “using his disability to grandstand,” saying that Kovaleski should “get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.”

But Kovaleski himself quickly issued a statement contradicting Trump, saying that he covered Trump closely as a reporter for the New York Daily News and had met him face-to-face on at least a dozen occasions — to the point of being “on a first name basis” with Trump.

“I’ve interviewed him in his office. 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,” Kovaleski said.

Andrew Gluck, formerly of the Daily News and who co-wrote several pieces on Trump with Kovaleski, backed up the reporter’s statement, saying that Trump’s claim to not recall Kovaleski was simply not believable.

“Serge is an unforgettable character when you meet him,” Gluck told The Washington Post. “You’re struck by the fact that his arms don’t work quite right. Anybody that meets him would obviously know that. You’re going to remember him.”

Nonetheless, as late as July 29 of this year, Trump continued to claim his innocence in the mocking incident.

“I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know he was disabled,” Trump said, instead claiming that he was mocking Kovaleski for “groveling.”

4. Arthrogryposis is a Rare Disorder

Arthrogryposis, the condition that causes Koavaleski’s disability, is considered relatively rare, occurring only once in every 3,000 births, according to the site

The National Institutes of Health say that the condition causes “a joint becomes permanently fixed in a bent or straightened position, which can impact the function and range of motion of the joint and may lead to muscle atrophy. AMC is not a specific diagnosis, but rather a physical symptom that can be associated with many different medical conditions.”

The causes of arthrogryposis — a name derived from the Latin words meaning “curved joint” — are not fully understood, but the condition is present from birth and is thought to occur when a fetus does not move around enough in the womb, which causes muscles and joints to develop improperly.

5. Clinton Hammers Trump on his Mocking of the Disabled

Sees | Hillary ClintonSUBSCRIBE for the latest news and updates from the Hillary Clinton campaign ► Watch more videos from Hillary Clinton!► Stay connected with the campaign. Subscribe on YouTube ► Like us on Facebook ► Follow us on Twitter ► Follow us on Instagram ► Pin with us on Pinterest ► ABOUT HILLARY CLINTON Hillary Clinton has served as Secretary of State, Senator from New York, First Lady of the United States, First Lady of Arkansas, a practicing lawyer and law professor, activist, and volunteer, but the first things her friends and family will tell you is that she’s never forgotten where she came from or who she’s been fighting for throughout her life. Hillary was raised in a suburb of Illinois where she attended public school and was raised a Methodist by her parents. She attended Wellesley College, and went on to study law at Yale. After attending Yale Law School, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, going door to door in New Bedford, Massachusetts. After serving as a lawyer for the Congressional Committee investigating President Nixon, she moved to Arkansas where she taught law and ran legal clinics representing poor people. She co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, one of the state’s first child advocacy groups. As First Lady under President Bill Clinton, Hillary tenaciously led the fight to reform our health care system so that all our families have access to the care they need at affordable prices. Hillary led the U.S. delegation to Beijing to attend the UN Fourth World Conference on Women and gave a groundbreaking speech, declaring that “human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights once and for all”—inspiring women worldwide and helping to galvanize a global movement for women’s rights and opportunities. Hillary was then elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first woman senator from New York. She repeatedly worked across the aisle to get things done, including working alongside Republicans after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. When Congress wouldn't do enough for rural areas and small towns, Hillary didn’t back down. She launched innovative partnerships with the tech industry and provided support to local colleges and small businesses. When President Obama asked Hillary to serve as his secretary of state, she answered the call to public service once again. She was a forceful champion for human rights, internet freedom, and rights and opportunities for women and girls, LGBT people and young people all around the globe. Now she’s running for President because everyday Americans need a champion and she wants to be that champion. ABOUT THE HILLARY CLINTON YOUTUBE CHANNEL Welcome to Hillary Clinton’s YouTube Channel. This channel is the official hub for videos related to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, and where you’ll find small glimpses into the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Learn all about Hillary’s platform, and where she stands on the issues facing America today. Connect with Hillary on the problems that matter to you: climate change, immigration, healthcare, inequality, education, and the economy. See the pivotal moment that began it all, with the Getting Started video announcing her candidacy. Watch important speeches and event highlights, such as Hillary’s official campaign launch speech on Roosevelt Island, New York. Stay up to date with the campaign ads and video everyone will be talking about on social media. Follow Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail leading up to the democratic primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and many more states. Explore Hillary’s background and bio, and learn how she has always been a forceful champion for human rights, internet freedom, and rights and opportunities for women and girls, the LGBT community, and young people all around the globe. Get inspired and fired up about becoming a volunteer, and donating to the campaign. Hillary is running for President because everyday Americans need a champion and she want to be that champion. This account is run by Hillary for America. Get updates from the campaign by going to our website:

Trump’s mocking of the disabled newspaper reporter turned into a major campaign theme for Clinton, who has repeatedly hammered Trump for his perceived insensitivity to people with disabilities — most recently in a TV ad issued last week, featuring disabilities advocate Anastasia Somoza. That ad can be viewed in the video above.

Politically, Clinton is smart to make a major issue of Trump’s Kovaleski incident. In a Bloomberg News poll issued in August, voters were asked which Trump statement or incident bothered them the most.

Trump’s mocking of people with disabilities topped the list, with more than 60 percent calling the Kovaleski incident Trump’s worst offense — even more than the number offended by Trump’s attacks on the Khan family, who lost a son to the war in Iraq.