trump and wheelchair boy at healthcare speech

Screengrab via Remix by Jay Hathaway

No, Donald Trump did not refuse to shake the hand of a kid with disabilities

It looked like Trump ignored a disabled boy, but he didn't.


Jay Hathaway

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 25, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 10:49 pm CDT

On Monday, Donald Trump delivered a healthcare speech in which he asserted that “Obamacare is death.” Behind him on stage were families who Trump claims are “victims of Obamacare,” including one small boy in a wheelchair. On his way out of the speech, Trump shook the hands of many of the assembled guests. But he appeared to ignore the wheelchair-bound boy, who reached up to him twice.

This looks extremely cold, but this segment from the end of the speech doesn’t tell the whole story. When Trump first entered the room, he made directly for the little boy and leaned down to shake his hand, making sure to pause for the cameras.

It appears Trump didn’t snub the boy after all. And why would he? A child in a wheelchair is the ideal prop for Trump’s “victims of Obamacare” narrative. However, Trump’s public history with people in wheelchairs is also not great. During his campaign, Trump mocked J.J. Holmes, a 12-year-old with cerebral palsy who came to a rally to protest Trump’s previous mockery of a disabled reporter. People in wheelchairs protesting the Republican “Trumpcare” bill were also dragged away from Senate Majority Mitch McConnell’s office by Capitol police. And Trump has also been accused of snubbing wheelchair-bound former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at his inauguration.

On this one count, though, Trump doesn’t appear to have disrespected a disabled or wheelchair-bound person. It just looks that way in one segment of a much longer video.

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*First Published: Jul 25, 2017, 12:22 pm CDT