As she accepted an award last weekend, Meryl Streep, the purportedly “celebrated” Hollywood actress, dredged up the lie that President-Elect Donald J. Trump “made fun of a reporter’s disability” during the recently concluded campaign for the White House. Streep’s charge, though, is an outright lie and here are the facts you need to know to combat this lie.
The lie against Trump has been around since a Trump rally in 2016 where the GOP candidate made fun of The New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski for getting a story wrong. During the rally Trump criticized Kovaleski for a story Trump says was false. The particular story the reporter got wrong is immaterial here, but what Trump did while criticizing Kovaleski is the key part of the false claim that the real estate mogul “made fun of a reporter’s disability.”
The criticism stems from what Trump did to mock the man. From the dais Trump mocked the reporter by raising his arms, crooking his wrists, and stuttering as if he was acting spastic. This, critics said, was Trump making for of the reporter’s disability because, as it happens, Kovaleski has a congenital condition called arthrogryposis, a condition that makes his right arm useless due to contractures of his joints.
Now, in reality the reporter in question is not affilcted with a spastic movement. Were you to listen to him, and not see that his arm is drawn up, crooked to his chest, you’d think he would have no disability at all. But because his arm in in that useless position, it might be thought to resemble the way Trump crooked his arm whilst ridiculing the reporter during the rally.
Here, for instance, is an example of Serge Kovaleski speaking…
As you can see, he doesn’t sound any different than anyone else. He doesn’t have the sort of disability that includes shaking spastically.
So, only the most superficial and dishonest assessment of Trump’s actions could maintain that Trump was making fun of the man’s disability, as Streep charged last weekend.
Before we explain why we know this, let’s review what Streep actually said.
— Golden Globe Awards (@goldenglobes) January 9, 2017
Here is the key criticism Streep had of Trump:
There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.
The central lie (in my bold above) in Streep’s comments is that Trump “imitated a disabled reporter.” This is a flat out lie. Trump may have been mocking the man, he may have been ridiculing him, he may have been gauche and even mean spirited in doing so, but he was not “imitating” anyone’s disability.
How can we know this for a fact?
Because Trump has used this exact same motion many times in the past to ridicule several people with whom he has disagreed, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and not a single one of them had any “disabilities” except for reporter Kovaleski. The fact is the spastic body shaking and funny voice thing is one of Trump’s go-to styles for mocking someone. As far as Trump is concerned he is targeting someone’s stupidity, not any physical ailments they may or may not have.
Just for example here are two videos to show the point. The first one shows Trump using that spastic motion to ridicule Texas Senator and rival GOP candidate Ted Cruz.
The second one shows Trump using the same motion to attack a U.S. Army General.
Sure, this may be sort of a childish way to relay that you think someone you disagree with is wrong about something. But it is clearly about Trump’s desire to ridicule someone’s actions or ideas. It has nothing whatever to do with anyone’s disabilities.
Certainly Ann Coulter got to the nub of this issue back in August. It is the media that is guilty in this episode, not really Trump.
Now consider the media’s role in manufacturing, and then protecting, this lie. Reporters were at Trump’s speech. They were filming it. They saw him do the identical imitation of a general during that same speech.
The media knew damn well that Trump does the arm-waving routine whenever he’s pretending to be a flustered person. But they never allowed the public to see the clip of Trump doing the same imitation of a general.
That is proof that the media knew they were lying.
In the end there is a logical difference between ridiculing a person for what they have said and ridiculing them for a disability they suffer. A person who suffers a disability is not immune for saying things stupid enough for a good mocking, nor does it make their every utterance unassailable. Making fun of what people say is not off limits. Making fun of their disability — something entirely out of their control — yes, that is a horrible thing to do.
But, as we see, Trump never did that.
As an aside, let’s also be done with this claim that Meryl Streep is a “celebrated” actress. Sure she is. Nearly all her “awards” have been bestowed upon her by her fellow actors, not by any serious assessment of her career. I’d be “celebrated” too if the only people you asked to assess my writing career were other conservative writers! But I’d guess if you’d ask some liberals, well, they just might have a different opinion.
Finally, let’s also dispense with this claim that liberals are “the beautiful people.” After all, a new study showed that it is conservatives who end up being on average the better looking group when compared to liberals.
A recent study published in the Journal of Public Economics found that conservative politicians in are on average more attractive than their liberal opponents, the Washington Post reported.
The study concludes that, “the attractiveness of a candidate does correlate with their politics. They find that politicians on the right are more good looking in Europe, the United States and Australia.”
Of course, conservatives have known this for some time. A popular meme on the issue has been floating around for a very long time that speaks just to this point….