In his Thursday statement, Trump said: “I know nothing about [Kovaleski] other than I have great respect for the way he wrote the story on 18 September 2001, and in particular the paragraph talking about Muslims and tailgate parties taking place in New Jersey.”

Trump later added to his statement, asking the paper to apologise to him for accusing him of mocking Kovaleski, who the candidate repeated he had no memory of meeting. He also reinforced his criticism of the Times in light of its business decisions and fortunes in terms of sales and readership.

“Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago – if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did,” Trump said. “He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.”