After being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Meryl Streep criticized Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.
Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.
At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from an article he had written four years earlier.
Trump had earlier said the article proved that New Jersey Muslims had celebrated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Kovaleski had insisted there was no credible proof of such celebrations.
Angered at being contradicted, Trump mocked Kovaleski: He flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, 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.'”
Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right
At the Golden Globe Awards on January 8, Streep denounced this behavior that “broke my heart.”
“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.
“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes
Streep’s words outraged Trump’s supporters–especially his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway.
Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts.
“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”
Conway didn’t say what common ground Streep should find with Trump. Perhaps agreeing on mocking the disabled?
Then Conway visited CNN’s “New Day,” where she offered a “black-is-white” defense for Trump’s videotaped ridiculing of Kovaleski: It didn’t happen.
The host, Chris Cuomo, having seen the video, wasn’t buying it.
CUOMO: But is [Streep] wrong? Is she wrong that it was wrong for Trump to make gestures like that about a man with disabilities?
CONWAY: He didn’t–but that is not what he did and he has said that a thousand times. As he tweeted out today–
CUOMO: He can say it a million. Look at the video.
CONWAY: Why can’t you–wait, excuse me. Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt the way the benefit of the doubt was given to CNN’s polling, all of its analysts?
CUOMO: Because he’s making a disgusting gesture on video talking about Serge.
CONWAY: Not about that reporter and that’s just a fact. That is what he’s said. You should give him–
CUOMO: But how is it not about the reporter?
CONWAY: –the deference and respect if he says that it was–he was not mocking, he was mocking the groveling. He said it again this morning. He has three tweets out about it.
CUOMO: But he’s doing a gesture that goes right to the guy’s vulnerability.
CONWAY: You’re saying you don’t believe him. You’re calling him a liar and you shouldn’t.
CUOMO: Look, Kellyanne, to me that’s like you’re trying to scare me off the point and we both know it’s a waste of time.
CONWAY: I’m not going to scare you off anything.
CUOMO: He’s making a gesture that is so keenly tuned to what Serge’s vulnerability is.
CONWAY: And now you’re giving oxygen to what Meryl Streep said.
CUOMO: Forget about Meryl Streep. This happened before her. If our kids did that, could you imagine what we would say to them?
Conway said she would not bring her children into the discussion.
CUOMO: I will. If my kid did something like that, it’d be a really tough day.
CONWAY: You have to listen to what the president has said about that. Why don’t you believe him?
Conway tried to change the subject to Hillary Clinton: “She was given the benefit of the doubt here constantly.”
When Cuomo asked for specifics, she refused to give them. Then she returned to claiming that Trump had never mocked Kovaleski:
CONWAY: You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this, when he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth, rather than look at what’s in his heart.
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Previously, politicians had defended themselves with arguments like: “You can see right here on the tape, I did (or, I didn’t)….”
Trump has cast aside that logic–and the taped evidence–by demanding: “Believe what I’m telling you, not what you’ve just seen.”
By that rationale, if a security camera shows Trump robbing a bank at gunpoint, we’re supposed to believe him if he says: “No, I didn’t rob that bank. I was simply checking my bank balance.”
Such “logic” holds appeal for paid shills like Kelleyanne Conway. But most people will continue to judge by the evidence.