When Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter who has arthrogryposis which visibly limits flexibility in his arms, pointed out that his September 2001 reporting, and his memory, did not support Trump’s claim that Muslims in New Jersey partied on rooftops watching the collapse of the World Trade Center, he distorted what the reporter said, falsely claiming that he backtracked on his article. He said “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy” and then did an “impression” of his disability-related movements. [source

After being criticized for mocking the Times reporter, Trump warned that he does not have time to be “politically correct” in matters of disability terminology. [source] Trump also demanded an apology from the New York Times, saying: “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. He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.” [source]

Prominent Trump supporter Ann Coulter defended Trump, writing in In Trump We Trust that actually Trump was not imitating Mr. Kovaleski’s specific patterns, but “doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid.” [source] Trump himself has used the word “retarded” as a slur, apparently on multiple occasions, including but not limited to interactions with The Celebrity Apprentice contestant Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress. [source] [source] [source]

Criticized by Charles Krauthammer, a conservative commentator who uses a wheelchair, Trump responded “I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune…bigger than people even understand...then I get called by a guy that...that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names? Give me a break.” [source] [source - relevant section starts at 10:30]

Attempts by Trump and a handful of others to explain his behavior have deservedly flopped. That Trump “mocks the handicapped” was the second in a long list of reasons another group of former Republican officeholders just announced their opposition to him on October 6. [source] A large number of evangelical Christians recently came out in opposition to Trump, in part based on his statements “ taking our weakening culture of civility to nearly unprecedented levels with continuing personal attacks on others, including … mocking a disabled reporter.” [source] Trump’s treatment of people with disabilities has already begun spreading to his supporters. [source] Trump has brought hostile fringe voices on disability issues out into the open: one of his favorite interviewers is Michael Savage, who Trump joked about making Surgeon General, saying he would bring “common sense.” Savage has claimed that autism is “a fraud, a racket. ... I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, ’Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’” Savage has slammed people suffering from PTSD and depression as “weak,” “narcissistic,” and “losers” and has said  ”we’re being laughed at around the world. No wonder ISIS can defeat our military.” [source]

Donald Trump’s website says nothing specific about disability issues. The closest things are these:  In the Education section, he claims that Hillary is repeating the “union misinformation” that “Most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids and don’t serve all students, unlike traditional public schools.” Unfortunately, this is not “union misinformation.” Whatever role public charter schools could or should play, it is an unfortunate fact that far too many of them have resisted stepping up to serve students with significant disabilities. [source]

The Economy section on Trump’s website says nothing specific about people with disabilities, but pledges to “embrace the truth that people flourish under a minimum government burden” to “tap into the incredible unrealized potential of our workers and their dreams.”  “Burdens” like the Americans with Disabilities Act have opened economic opportunities for people with disabilities. Trump has repeatedly been sued for violating the ADA, and says the money his companies spend to make buildings accessible reflects his “love” for people with disabilities. [source] [source] [source] [source] Trump’s health section says nothing specific about people with disabilities, but calls for “repeal[ing] and replac[ing] Obamacare with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).” That does not work for people who cannot save to meet extraordinarily costly medical needs: dealing with risks is what insurance is for. Donald Trump wants to “put the job-killing regulation industry out of business,” eliminating air and water pollution regulations and increasing exposure to toxins which cause, among other things, illnesses and disabilities. donaldjtrump.com


Genes vs. Environment

While Hillary Clinton frequently talks about enabling all children to reach their “God-given potential,” and has written (and read) books on child development and policies affecting it, Trump reckons that for many people, human potential is very limited. Trump attributes success and failure to genes, rather to the environments we create for children and adults. Trump has repeatedly demonstrated an obsession with IQ and “genius.” [source] In 2006, promoting one of his books, he explained where he parts company with the Declaration of Independence:  “You know they come with this statement ‘all men are created equal.’ Well, it sounds beautiful, and it was written by some very wonderful people and brilliant people, but it's not true because all people and all men [laughter] aren't created — now today they'd say all men and women, of course, they would have changed that statement that was made many years ago. But the fact is you have to be born and blessed with something up here [pointing to his head]. On the assumption you are, you can become very rich.” [source

In a 1990 Playboy interview, Trump explained that when it comes to success, “I’m a strong believer in genes.” Years later, he told CNN: “I think I was born with a drive for success. I had a father who was successful. He was a builder in Brooklyn and Queens. And he was successful and, you know, I have a certain gene. I'm a gene believer. Hey, when you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse. And I really was, you know, I had a good gene pool from the standpoint of that.” Campaigning in Biloxi, he again assured us: “I have great genes and all that stuff which I'm a believer in.” [source]


Trump’s books and interviews are quick reads. Trump has been claiming that America was going downhill and needs “smart” and “tough” leadership since at least 1990, when Republican President George H.W. Bush was in office. [source] He has made grandiose, simplistic policy proposals for at least that long. He gets confused about recent American history, claiming in Time to Get Tough (2011) that the “equal time” rule kept him from continuing The Apprentice while running for president, even though the Fairness Doctrine ended in 1987. It is not clear how much Trump contributed to “his” books. Ghostwriter for Art of the Deal Tony Schwartz coined for Trump the term “truthful hyperbole,” which Trump reportedly loved; unfortunately, Trump was dishonest then about his business and now about ours. A Trump “co-author,” Meredith McIver, was blamed for Melania Trump’s use of lines from Michelle Obama. [source] Schwartz learned a great deal about Trump by watching him, though Trump could or would not focus for sustained interviews nor did he comment significantly on Schwartz’s draft book. [source]