Behind the Meeting Between Obama and Boy With Disability Tossed From Trump Rally

J.J. Holmes, who has cerebral palsy, met Obama at Clinton rally in Florida

President Barack Obama met with 12-year old JJ Holmes on Sunday in Florida. (Courtesy Alison Holmes and the Hillary Clinton campaign)
President Barack Obama met with 12-year old JJ Holmes on Sunday in Florida. (Courtesy Alison Holmes and the Hillary Clinton campaign)
Posted November 7, 2016 at 9:24am

President Barack Obama paused after a campaign stop for Hillary Clinton on Sunday for what was one of the more poignant moments of the presidential campaign.

Obama, campaigning in the Orlando area, stopped to greet 12-year old J.J. Holmes, who uses a wheelchair and speaks with assistance of a computer, a consequence of severe cerebral palsy.

“I hate Donald Trump. I hate Donald Trump,” Holmes said to a pool reporter traveling with Obama, through his vocalization device.

Holmes’ mother Alison explained that he had been wheeled out of a campaign event for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a day earlier in Tampa. A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not respond to a request for details on that incident.

But a Clinton campaign aide said that Holmes had been removed from the Trump event for holding up a pro-Clinton sign.

His mother said that J.J. wanted to grow up to be an advocate for rights of persons with disabilities, according to a Clinton aide in Florida.

Days before a presidential election, individual moments don’t always resonate, but the interaction between Obama and Holmes is a reminder of an incident last November in which Trump appeared to mock Serge Kovaleski, a journalist with arthrogryposis, or joint contractures.

The Clinton campaign and supporters of the former secretary of State have been aggressive in using the video of Trump on a campaign stage making gestures that he has denied were directed at mocking Kovaleski, and Clinton surrogates like former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin have talked about the importance of supporting people who have disabilities, some of whom may need extra assistance getting to the voting booth.