Receiving a lifetime achievement award Sunday night at the Golden Globes, actress Meryl Streep expressed her concern about President-elect Donald Trump, focusing in on the moment during the campaign in which he mocked a reporter’s disability. Doing damage control Monday morning, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway pleaded that people ignore Trump’s words and the video of Trump obviously mocking the reporter, and instead look at “his heart.”
“You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart?” Conway asked CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”
Just an hour earlier, Conway had been on Fox and Friends, attacking Meryl Streep for “inciting people’s worst instincts.” Streep gave an eloquent speech about rejecting bullying and encouraged everyone to feel empathy for others.
Whether Trump was intending to mock the reporter in the infamous clip has been well litigated, but the evidence in support of Trump’s after-the-fact claims are not particularly believable.
In the speech from November of 2015, Trump was defending his bizarre claim that thousands of Muslims were celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11. He attacked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who he knew enough to call a “nice guy,” for standing by his recollection of his own 9/11 reporting at the time of the tragedy.
In his gestures mocking Kovaleski — “you gotta see this guy,” he said — he clearly kept his right hand in a hooked position to mock the way the reporter’s arthrogryposis limits the flexibility in his arms. Trump later explained that he couldn’t possibly have been mocking his disability because, “despite having one of the all-time great memories, I certainly do not remember him.” Trump did not apologize.
But Kovaleski challenged both claims in his statement, highlighting that he had interviewed Trump as many as a dozen times throughout his career, including in his office in Trump Tower. “Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” he explained to the Times.
Conway’s argument is that no matter what Trump might do or say that is actually wrong or objectionable, it doesn’t matter so long as people believe he meant well. Streep, on the other hand, must be held accountable for promoting division by not standing by the President-elect.