President Barack Obama Offends Mentally Disabled With Special Olympics Remark

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 20, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Barack Obama Offends Mentally Disabled With Special Olympics Remark

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 20
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — President Barack Obama has upset the pro-life community with his repeated actions to promote and force funding of abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Now, he has stuck his foot in his mouth with a comment offending the mentally and physically disabled.

Appearing on the Jay Leno program on Thursday evening, President Obama talked about his poor bowling skills and said he recently bowled a 129 game.

"That’s very good, Mr. President," Leno responded sarcastically.

It’s "like the Special Olympics or something," the president said.

The remark has taken on a life of its own today as pro-life groups and members of the disability community are upset.

The White House has been so overwhelmed with negative comments in response to Obama’s comment that administration officials have released a statement saying Obama didn’t mean to offend.

"The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. "He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world."

Wesley J. Smith, a bioethics attorney who frequently writes about discrimination against the disabled, said Obama’s comment revealed much about his character.

"This was gratuitously harmful politically to the president, and it reflects a thoughtlessness, I think, that belies his image as a sensitive egalitarian," Smith said. "If President Bush ever said something like that, the howling about how the remark reflected his inner anti-disability attitudes would never end."

Since the dustup, President Obama has called Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver to apologize.

“He expressed his disappointment and he apologized, in a way that was very moving,” Shriver said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“It’s important to see that words hurt, and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seen as humiliating or a put-down of people with special needs do cause pain, and they do result in stereotypes," he added.

Obama told Shriver he wants to have some Special Olympians to come to the White House to participate in bowling or basketball.

Obama’s comments come on the heels of a presidential campaign that saw Sarah Palin, a candidate for Vice President, give birth to a disabled baby and her making a pledge to serve the disabled community in Washington.

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