US & Canada

Donald Trump denies mocking disabled reporter

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Media captionDonald Trump mimicked the disabled reporter at the rally in South Carolina

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has denied mocking a disabled New York Times reporter during a campaign address earlier this week.

Mr Trump flailed his arms while referring to an article about the 9/11 attacks by Serge Kovaleski, who has a congenital joint condition.

But the politician insisted he did not know what the reporter looked like.

He tweeted that he simply was "showing a person grovelling to take back a statement made long ago".

"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."

He also accused the New York Times of being "dishonest" and "trying to make a story out of nothing".

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Image caption Donald Trump claims he has never met Mr Kovaleski (left), who suffers from a congenital joint condition

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The row erupted after Mr Trump's speech at a rally in South Carolina on Tuesday.

The billionaire property tycoon used a 2001 article by Mr Kovaleski, who at the time worked for the Washington Post, to back up his own widely disputed claims that "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 11 September attacks in the US.

In his article, Mr Kovaleski's 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.

However, Mr Kovaleski recently told CNN he did "not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds of people celebrating".

At the rally, Mr Trump accused Mr Kovaleski of backing down from his own story.

"Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy," the politician said, before launching into an apparent impression of Mr Kovaleski, waving his arms around with his hands at an odd angle.

"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.'"

Mr Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the movement of joints and is noticeable in his right arm and hand.

Mr Kovaleski reported on Mr Trump between 1987 and 1993. He has said he is sure the businessman remembers him and his physical condition, the Washington Post reported.

The New York Times has called Mr Trump's actions "outrageous".

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