A Special Olympics athlete, parents of special needs children and conservatives are denouncing Ann Coulter for her continued use of the word “retard” as an insult.
Coulter tweeted after Monday night’s presidential debate on foreign policy:
The R-word returned to her Twitter feed again Tuesday:
Parents have called on Coulter and others to stop using the word, saying it’s a slur demeaning to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics’ website, r-word, calls it hate speech, and in 2010, President Barack Obama signed “Rosa’s Law,” which removes terms like “mentally retarded" and "mental retardation” from federal laws.
“You do not understand why the word is so hurtful,” Lisa Quinones-Fontanez wrote in a blog post today to celebrities who use the R-word. (Previous examples include Democratic politician Rahm Emanuel, who later apologized and pledged not to use the word again.) Quinones-Fontanez wrote:
“My son is 6.5 years old. His name is Norrin and he has autism. And with your use of the R-word – you have hurt him. You have hurt millions of children and adults living with any kind of disability. In 140 characters or less, you have sabotaged and diminished every single thing a special needs parent advocates for. You are perpetuating this stereotype that individuals with special needs are stupid, ugly, worthless and less than.”
After Coulter’s latest tweet, one dad is withdrawing the request he made on TODAY Moms two weeks ago for Coulter to apologize for another "retarded" tweet. Dan Niblock, whose son Ozzie has Down syndrome, says he’s going to “link arms with dear Ann Coulter and help bring her the notoriety she craves.”
“A more appropriate symbol for cruelty I can't imagine,” he wrote.
“From this day forth, let the ‘Ann Coulter’ brand be synonymous with the shameful and callous treatment of those whose voices are too often ignored,” wrote Niblock, a graphic designer in North Carolina.
“I'm honored to help plant her bright red flag on the summit of Mount Retard,” Niblock continued in an email. “I want Ann's name to forever be linked to the taunting of special needs children. May all those who look upon her face be reminded of the bully at the bus stop. The dismissive cashier. The group of kids who point and laugh and stare.”
Coulter’s tweet Monday night also prompted an open letter from Special Olympics athlete John Franklin Stephens, 30, who also has Down syndrome. He has struggled, he wrote, with the public perception that he’s dumb and shallow because he has an intellectual disability.
“I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you,” he wrote in a letter posted Tuesday. “In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.”
He continued: “After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.”
“Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor,” Stephens wrote. “No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.”
Ellen Seidman, who blogs about her son who has special needs, tweeted to Coulter:
Seidman also tweeted the pundit a link to a video she made titled, "Would you call my child a retard?"
"At this point, I'm thinking the woman must surely be aware that the word is offensive, and she chooses not to care. That's pretty vile and heartless," Seidman told CNN. "You want to slam the president, go ahead. But you can't think of any other word to use? Come on."
Even some of Coulter's fans and fellow conservatives complained that she's gone too far. The right-leaning social news site Twitchy.com, founded by conservative columnist and author Michelle Malkin, called Coulter's tweets "classless, unnecessary, and mean-spirited" and said, "She sure doesn't speak for us." Twitchy highlighted several critical tweets in response to Coulter, including:
Despite Coulter’s word choice, Stephens, the Special Olympian, signed his letter to her as “A friend you haven’t made yet,” and invited her to watch the Special Olympics: “See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.”
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