Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama Makes Special Olympics Gaffe On Leno

Commenting on his much improved bowling score of 129, up from a painful-to-watch 32 while on the campaign trail, the President made an off-hand remark likening his improved low score to an athlete competing in the Special Olympics. It was like Special Olympics or something said the President commenting on his most recent score.

Even before the show aired, the White House trotted out Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton aboard Air Force One to issue an apology on behalf of the President for the joke, hoping to dampen criticism about Obama's comment.

Too late.

Burton opened with a prepared statement for the newshounds, The President made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics. He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world. Burton then waded into the deep end of the Press pool with reporters hammering him with questions about AIG, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Senator Chris Dodd; the most recent focus of blame for the AIG bonus fiasco.

Ater Obama's appearance on the Tonight Show where the topics ranged from the AIG bailout, people like Simon Cowell in Washington politics, and March Madness, it was the Special Olympics quip that people were talking about the next morning.

California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger and first lady Maria Shriver who deeply support the charity were confident that Obama meant no offense in the comment. Maria Shriver's mother-in-law Eunice Kennedy started the Special Olympics movement in the late sixties which is chaired by Timothy Shriver. He loves Special Olympics, said Governor Schwarzenegger, and he will do everything he can to help Special Olympics. And every one of us sometimes makes a mistake. Something comes out of your mouth and you say, 'Oops, I wish I wouldn't have said that.' I've had many of those.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whose son Trig is diagnosed with Down's Syndrome said she was shocked by the comment. These athletes overcome more challenges, discrimination and adversity than most of us ever will. By the way, these athletes can outperform many of us and we should be proud of them. I hope President Obama’s comments do not reflect how he truly feels about the special needs community.

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