Why Don’t We Say the Name of the Disabled Reporter?


[Photo Source: Facebook]

On Monday morning, Meryl Streep was present all over Facebook, and her name trended in the highest position for much of the day. This, of course, was in response to her Golden Globes speech the night before. Many people were moved by her words as she expressed the importance of empathy, honored immigrants, and advocated for journalists and a free press.

At the heart of her speech, she called our attention back to one of the most disturbing moments of the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Without mentioning the name of our President Elect, she referenced the terrible moment when Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter during one of his campaign speeches. That shocking action, caught on video, was deeply concerning to many. People across the nation shared it a multitude of times and highlighted it as a particularly low moment of the campaign season.

I was very touched by Meryl Streep’s speech. Without ever mentioning Donald Trump’s name, she called him to account. But as I considered this speech, a question emerged within me as well: Whenever this moment is referenced, why is it so rare to hear the name of reporter?

The man’s name is Serge F. Kovaleski, and he is an accomplished investigative reporter at the New York Times. In 2009, he contributed to investigative reporting which won a Pulitzer Prize. His work is phenomenal. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa and spent his early childhood in Sydney, Australia. His family moved to New York City in the 1970s.

Serge Kovaleski has a condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita which limits flexibility in his arms. Though Donald Trump denies mocking him, the video from his campaign clearly indicates otherwise. When this took place, people across the nation were shocked and appalled that he would publicly mock a disabled reporter in this way. People still raise concerns about this very moment.

And it makes sense to do just that. It is truly shocking and appalling. Meryl Streep was right to say, “There was nothing good about it.”

But it’s also important for us to remember that this disabled reporter has a name. He is Serge F. Kovaleski. We should never erase his disability, but we shouldn’t reduce him to it either. “Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter,” we tend to say, and most often, we just leave it at that. We need to say his name more often.

Donald Trump publicly mocked the disability of an accomplished journalist named Serge F. Kovaleski.

Renee Roederer

See also this powerful piece about ableism by Son of Baldwin.

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