Donald Trump — who has been widely criticized for apparently ridiculing a disabled reporter at a rally in the context of the battle over Trump’s claim that “thousands” of people celebrated the 9/11 attacks — has repeatedly responded that he does not have any memory of the reporter in question. The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, has challenged this claim, pointing out that he wrote multiple stories about Trump in the late 1980s, and that they even met on at least one occasion.
Trump has nonetheless stuck by his insistence that he knows nothing about Kovaleski or what he looks like, and almost certainly never met him.
But now a journalistic colleague who worked alongside Kovaleski during the period in question is sharing new details that appear to further undercut Trump’s claim. Kovaleski’s colleague tells me that he was present when Kovaleski and Trump met, that he sat near Kovaleski and overheard him interviewing Trump numerous times over the course of months, and that they were even on a first-name basis.
Andrew Gluck, who is currently the CEO of Advisor Products, a marketing and tech company for investors, was a reporter and financial columnist at the New York Daily News alongside Kovaleski in the late 1980s. Gluck tells me that he co-wrote numerous stories about Trump with Kovaleski, and that Trump’s claim he doesn’t remember him is simply not believable.
“Serge is an unforgettable character when you meet him,” Gluck told me. “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.” Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, which restricts joint movement.
At a rally last Tuesday, Trump appeared to mock Kovaleski’s muscular disorder, saying, “you gotta see this guy,” before flailing his hands around frantically. Trump had previously cited a story written just after the 9/11 attacks by Kovaleski, then at the Washington Post, which said that investigators had “questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks.” Trump held this up as evidence that he was right to claim “thousands and thousands” had celebrated them, but Kovaleski told Glenn Kessler late last week that there were not thousands or even hundreds of alleged celebrators, and that he hadn’t even confirmed the celebrations in any case.
Trump’s apparent ridicule of Kovaleski’s condition at the Tuesday rally came as he mocked Kovaleski for supposedly backtracking on his own previous story. (Kovaleski didn’t actually do this; Trump is distorting the significance of Kovaleski’s story. But nonetheless, Trump has continued to claim otherwise to support his own original tale.)
Responding to the subsequent national firestorm of criticism, Trump insisted that he hadn’t been mocking the reporter’s disability at all. On Thursday, Trump posted a statement on twitter claiming that he has “no idea” who Kovaleski is or what he looks like. Trump’s statement said: “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.” At a rally on Saturday, Trump insisted that he would “never” mock someone in that fashion, adding: “I didn’t know him, it’s possible, probable that I met him somewhere along the line, but I deal with reporters every day.”
But Gluck, Kovaleski’s colleague at the Daily News at the time, says he doubts Trump doesn’t remember him. Gluck says the two collaborated on a “rash of stories” about Trump at the time, and that on one occasion, the two men interviewed Trump in person for as long as two hours.
“Trump declared bankruptcy,” Gluck recalled. “We were assigned to cover it. We went over there and spoke with Trump one-on-one….We were on the story day after day for weeks.” Gluck added: “Serge continued covering Trump after that.”
“Serge sat at the desk across from me,” Gluck continued. “I remember him being on the phone with Trump….They would talk about the coverage. They would talk about the story.”
Gluck told me that Kovaleski and Trump were “on a first-name basis.”
This account would appear to support the one that Kovaleski himself gave a few days ago to Maggie Haberman:
Mr. Kovaleski said that he met with Mr. Trump repeatedly when he was a reporter for The Daily News covering the developer’s business career in the late 1980s, before joining The Post. “Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” Mr. Kovaleski said. “I’ve interviewed him in his office,” he added. “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.”
The Daily News has also released an article that Kovaleski wrote about Trump at the time that supports this account. A spokesperson for Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The guy took Serge’s calls. He knew him,” Gluck told me. “It was a huge paper back then. We were writing stuff about Trump going bankrupt. How could Trump not know him?”