Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump has denied he made fun of a disabled New York Times reporter earlier this week.
During a campaign rally in South Carolina on Tuesday, the billionaire candidate flailed his arms when referring then-Washington Post reporter Serge Kovaleski and an article he wrote about the 9/11 2001 suicide hijacking attacks on New York and Washington.
Kovaleski suffers from a congenital joint condition called arthrogryposis.
According to Trump, Kovaleski’s 2001 reporting supports Trump’s controversial claim that "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated watching the World Trade Center towers collapse.
Kovaleski reportedly wrote that "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" in Jersey City, New Jersey.
But the reporter told CNN he did not see “thousands, or even hundreds” of people celebrating.
At the South Carolina rally, Trump said Kovaleski was backing down from his own story.
"Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy," the politician said, before starting what many saw as an impersonation of Kovaleski.
"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.'"
Trump was widely criticized for his gestures, but said he didn’t know what Kovaleski looked like.
"I have no idea who Serge Kovaleski is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence," he said in a statement.
"I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago.
"I have tremendous respect for people who are physically challenged and have spent tens of thousands of dollars throughout buildings all over the world on making them handicapped accessible and ADA (American Disability Act) compliant."
Kovaleski told the Washington Post that Trump must remember him since he covered him from 1987 to 1993.