President Trump mocked a physically disabled reporter during the 2016 campaign, and plenty of people think he just derided people with disabilities again.
At a ceremony for Olympic and Paralympic athletes Friday at the White House, Trump slipped in an aside that it was “tough to watch too much” of the Paralympics. “And what happened with the Paralympics was so incredible and so inspiring to me,” he said. “And I watched — it’s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could. It was really fantastic, and I want to thank you.”
Given Trump's physical mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski — which Trump denied was making fun of him, though it clearly was — it's not completely unreasonable to think Trump just expressed his dislike for watching Paralympians compete.
But there's a much more innocent explanation for all of this: That Trump was talking about not having time or the resources to watch the Paralympics.
Here's the video:
If Trump had said simply, “It's a little tough to watch,” his meaning would have been clearly derogatory, but the “too much,” suggests there was some kind of constraint on his viewership. That could be that he simply didn't like watching the Paralympics (or Olympic Games in general), yes, but it could also be because of some other constraint — either because of a lack of time or because there simply isn't as much Paralympic programming.
According to NBC Sports, there was 94 hours of Paralympic TV coverage across NBC's networks (with most of it being on cable) and 250 hours across all platforms, including the NBC Sports app. That was double what it was four years ago, but it was still a fraction of the Olympic coverage. There was 176 hours of Olympic coverage on NBC's broadcast network alone — and more than 2,400 hours across all platforms.
MSNBC's Chris Hayes is among those who think Trump's comment was probably just about time constraints.
Of course, the idea that Trump — who clearly watches lots of cable TV — doesn't have time to watch at least some the Paralympics is a little far-fetched. But that doesn't mean that wasn't what he was trying to claim.
There's also a nonzero chance that this was Trump trolling us — knowing what he said was going to be read in the most negative light by his opponents (and probed by the media) and that his supporters would view him as the victim of an overzealous backlash. As I've written before, Trump seems to have a knack for saying things that occupy a gray area of offensiveness.
But compared to his clear mocking of Kovaleski, this seems much more likely to have been meant to be innocuous.