In Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, protesters peacefully gathered to support and oppose the removal of a Confederate monument in the public square. A white supremacist intentionally drove his car into the protesters, killing one and injuring five. Then-President Donald Trump, during a press conference about the tragedy, said: "I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. ... And I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists – because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists." He also said, "You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."
Critics ignored the "and I'm not talking about" part and accused Trump of defending the attacker and violent protesters as "very fine people on both sides." That lie has become an article of faith for Trump haters.
In fact, as we've documented, others have pointed out that Trump was talking about those who atttended a protest that opposed the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee -- a protest organized by a group calling itself American Warrior Revolution, which considers itself a militia and later effectively blaming liberal counterprotester Heather Heyer for her own death in getting mowed down by a car driven by white supremacist James Fields Jr.
But that wasn't the only purported lie about Trump that Elder felt theneed to try and correct. He used his June 8 column to complain that Trump was called out for mocking a disabled reporter:
One slight problem: Trump did not mock a disabled reporter. Or, stated more accurately, Trump did not mock the reporter for his disability. Here's what happened.
In 2015, Trump claimed that on the day of the 9/11 terror attacks, "thousands and thousands of people were cheering" in Jersey City, New Jersey, as the Twin Towers fell. To back up his claim, Trump pointed to an article co-written by the then-Washington Post reporter Serge Kovaleski. The article said, "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." When asked about Trump's statement, Kovaleski said, "I certainly do not remember anyone saying that thousands or even hundreds of people were celebrating. That was not the case, as best as I can remember."
In response, Trump ridiculed what he considered the reporter's retreat from his 9/11 Post article. At a rally, Trump waved his hands erratically and said: "You've got to see this guy: '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.'"
I had a close friend of over 40 years. His beloved son was born with special needs. I supported Trump in 2016 and campaigned with and for him. Because of Trump's alleged ridicule of the reporter, my friend ended our friendship, despite my best effort to convince him that he was wrong.
First, Kovaleski does not flail his arms as did Trump when he made fun of him. Kovaleski has a condition called arthrogryposis, described by HopkinsMedicine.org as a "variety of conditions involving multiple joint contractures (or stiffness). A contracture is a condition where the range of motion of a joint is limited. It may be unable to fully or partially extend or bend." He does not gyrate as did Trump when he "mocked" the reporter's condition. Kovaleski is a calm and steady speaker.
Second, Trump, for years, has used the same "mocking" gesture to ridicule others, including himself, as well as an able-bodied general, as shown by videos on a website called Catholics4Trump.com.
A less biased media outlet pointted the flaws in Elder's (anmd Trump's) logic:
- Kovaleski was not "retreating" from his original report; he was pointing out there was no evidence to back up Trump's claim about Muslims cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center.
- Trump is quite familiar with Kovaleski, who had been covering Trump for years; Trump has denied that he knew the reporter or that he was disabled.
- Trump is indisputably mocking Kovaleski's disability. Whether Trump used the same gestures to mock non-disable people is irrelevant.
Nevertheless, Elder still wasn't done trying to make his argument:
Investor's Business Daily published a commentary with the headline "Fake News: Trump Did Not Mock Disabled Reporter and Other Lies From the Left." It said: "The truth is, Trump has often used those same convulsive gestures to mimic the mannerisms of people, including himself, who are rattled and exasperated. Why couldn't the mainstream media look this up? Gavin McInnes of TheRebelMedia.com and Taki's Magazine did, and he has the video evidence to show that Trump has a history of flailing his arms to make a point. It isn't something he reserved for Kovaleski. ...
IBD shut down its right-wing opinion section in 2019. McInnes is the founder of the Proud Boys, the right-wing militia group that played a key role in the Capitol riot. So maybe neither of these sources are the most reliable ones for Elder to cite.