Donald Trump, it turns out, is not very good at impressions -- but that could be his alibi against persistent accusations that he mocked a reporter's disability last fall.
Trump’s spastic arm waving at a rally last November while mimicking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski drew swift condemnation from opponents who claimed Trump was making light of a disability. It's followed him ever since. The Washington Post gave Trump four Pinocchio’s for his denials, and Hillary Clinton used a clip of the impression in a video released Tuesday slamming Trump.
But a pro-Trump, Catholic website has compiled footage appearing to show Trump has a very limited repertoire of impressions -- which the site points to as "evidence" he wasn't mocking the reporter's disability.
View the video above to see a compilation of Trump's impressions.
Catholics 4 Trump posted four videos – one of which dates back to 2005 – in which Trump impersonates everyone from Sen. Ted Cruz to The Donald himself with the same, flailing mannerisms and goofy speech.
At a February rally in South Carolina, Trump deployed the impression style to mock Cruz's answer to a question about waterboarding that was posed during an earlier debate. With a panicked look on his face and his hands flapping about, Trump stammered "Oh, I don't wanna talk about it!"
Trump also used the arm-thrashing act when making fun of himself during an interview with Larry King in 2005; when imitating a bank president in October; and when mocking an Army general at the same November speech in which he made the original Kovaleski comments.
Kovaleski suffers from a joint abnormality. Trump immediately denied making fun of Kovaleski’s handicap after he was called out for it.
"I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski [sic] is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence," Trump said in a November statement.
Kovaleski countered that he and Trump had met at least a dozen times and the two were on a first-name basis when Kovaleski was a reporter at The New York Daily News covering Trump in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Trump disputes this.
Few pundits and political analysts bought the explanation about his November comments, especially when Trump in July claimed he was only imitating the reporter groveling.
“Trump now suggests he was just imitating a grovel, but that’s not what he was actually doing,” Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote in August.
Trump had started talking about Kovaleski at the 2015 rally because he was defending himself from another controversial statement – that he had seen “thousands” of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Trump’s supporters had cited an article Kovaleski wrote around the time as evidence that Trump was correct. That article said “a number of people” had been seen celebrating. So when Kovaleski rebutted Trump, saying he never saw “thousands” or “hundreds” celebrating, Trump railed against the reporter – and one controversy begat another.
“All of a sudden, I get reports that I was imitating a reporter who was handicapped,” Trump said in July. “I would never do that.”