When asked about the remark, the White House said the president did not intend 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."
On his way back to Washington on Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say he was sorry — even before the taped program aired late Thursday night.
click the image below for the official statement from the Special Olympics
Dear Mr. President,
I believe that sometimes the content of one's character can be revealed not in the mistakes we make, but how we go about making amends. I'm watching very closely to see what you do beyond the White House statement and phone call apology to Mr. Shriver.
You picked an interesting time to make such a cruel comparison on national television. In less than two weeks, people from across our nation are coming together to call for respect, acceptance, and dignity for all people regardless of ability. As our celebrity spokesman (actor John C. McGinley) put it so well, "it defies rational thought as to why you would pick on that group."
The 'Spread the Word to End the Word 3.31.09' campaign, which is being led by Special Olympics, has focused on the derogatory use of the words retard or retarded (the R-word), but at its core, this movement is so much more. It is our great hope that we can educate our fellow citizens, not just about the r-word but to go further to dispel the negative stereotypes associated with people with disabilities. When we do this, we hope to change minds about the value of the lives of our children, loved ones, and friends who have special needs. In doing so, there won't be a need for a new word to rise up and take the place of the r-word.
Mr. President, I have no doubt that you did not intend to hurt me or insult my daughter who has special needs with your thoughtless remark. That indeed, is exactly what you did. You did not call yourself the r-word, but your comment had the same meaning. This off-hand remark gave our nation permission to put themselves or others down by making comparisons to those with disabilities. This is unacceptable.
Ours is a community that has done nothing to you, who struggle every day to be included and to prove their value. Last night the leader of our nation used our community as the butt of a self-deprecating joke. It is my job, my duty as a mother to defend and protect my child against such cruel behavior just as it is your job to lead. So lead Mr. President.
On 3.31.09, in your home state, a state ranked dead last for funding for services for people with developmental disabilities, we will be gathering in numbers to Spread the Word. Please consider this a personal invitation to join us at our event. Click the button below for more details.