March 20th, 2009
02:08 PM ET
14 years ago

Special Olympics asks Obama to consider hiring athlete

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Timothy Shriver is chairman of the Special Olympics."](CNN) - The Special Olympics organization is calling on President Obama to "consider" hiring one of their athletes to work in the White House, following the president's reference to the organization during his Thursday night appearance on The Tonight Show.

“In so doing, he could help end misperceptions about the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities, and demonstrate their dignity and value to the world," Timothy Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics, said in a statement released Friday morning.

iReport: What do you think about the president's comments?

Shriver also said the president was heartfelt in his apology, but added "words hurt and words matter."

"Words can cause pain and result in stereotypes that are unfair and damaging to people with intellectual disabilities,” Shriver said in the statement. “And using "Special Olympics" in a negative or derogatory context can be a humiliating put-down to people with special needs.”

Earlier: Obama apologizes for Special Olympics comment

Full Statement [PDF]

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (274 Responses)
  1. SLP

    Hall for Obama,

    I am not perfect. I have never professed to be perfect. I sit back every day and watch while the basic liberties that I have enjoyed my whole life are one by one being taken away. I also prefer to live in a world where right is right and wrong is wrong. I am a Speech-Language Pathlogist and work with special needs childlren. I have been to special olympics and stood there with tears streaming down my face as these children proudy participated in events that up until the last 30 or 40 years would have been off limits to them. For the leader of my country to make a remark that is so flippant and so degrading appalls me. You can worship him all that you want. When he does something that I approve of, then I will give him my respect. However, I worship no one but my Heavenly Father. However, I guess that makes me one of those religious fanatics that clings to my guns and religion. Wasn't that how President Obama put it?

    March 20, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. Bensisco

    This should never have become a news story. The President didn’t put down the Special Olympics. He simply implied he bowled like a person with a disability hindering their ability. People make jokes about their golf “handicaps” all of the time. So, inferring a disability as a cause for not playing a sport as well as you should is a normal part of the U.S. vernacular.

    March 20, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. John

    if anyone else made the comment that person would be ridiculed...PERIOD. Obama gets off again.

    March 20, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. Debra Haynes

    Hey Matthew from Detroit take a chill pill you apparently have never said anything that ever hurt someones feelings??? of course not your always"RIGHT"......

    March 20, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. Ken in NY

    So I guess the rule now is that if the Presidents says something about a group that the group finds offensive then the President must hire someone from that group. With that logic the Government will be on a larger hiring spree that it already is.

    March 20, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. Sawber

    When Bush showed "he was human" it was supposedly a bad thing.

    Now it's endearing. Double standard.

    That's what happens when he doesn't use a teleprompter.

    March 20, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Ardis

    Come on, don't we have enough real issues? Its gotten where a whole day can be spent talking about how the word "the" was used in a statement and what the person really ment. I think this is another case of gross over reaction. On the flip side I grow melon's in my front yard as I like them and they grow the best there. Talk about the environment, healthcare, the economy. Not hours about what someone did or didn't say.

    March 20, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. kingssman

    """The Special Olympics organization is calling on President Obama to "consider" hiring one of their athletes to work in the White House"""

    I thought none of the republicans wanted to work in the White House.

    Ooops was that insensitive?

    Obama knows full well about slurs and stereo types and people being insensitive. He's black! We've already seen all the slurs on a daily basis from comments on blogs to Republicans hiring people like Keyes and Steele to run against him based on skin color alone.

    March 20, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Jack

    He made an error we all do it. But if he was a republican you can bet he would be skewered. He always gets off easy. Wait about 6 more months and some of this mismanagement will stick to him. By the way I never heard Bush insult the disabled.

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. CAL

    Are you serious? I say NO why should he hire a special needs person because of the remark he made, that's ridiculous.
    Shriver is just trying to get some publicity. CNN at it's best again with dumb stories.

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Tina

    Kabookey stated: "I remember not so long ago that Saint O was calling for the outser of Don Imus for making a joke. What goes around comes around Saint O and your 15 mins is long past its expiration date. Keep up the good work there Saint O."

    Please explain the correlation here? Obama was berating himself; Imus was berating other people using an overtly racist term. (also, please re-read your sentences – grammar has obviously been flushed along with everyone's common sense.)

    And I won't even address the "Saint O" BS . . .

    as an Independent I am disgusted by all this overreaction to EVERYTHING and we all need to realize that it's only making things worse. Please just everyone calm down. (Don't be niave – the Media creates this drama and you are all falling for it – they need ratings to make money; think about it!!!)

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. Jerie Schulz

    As the parent of a child with special needs, I believe that while President Obama was wrong with his comparison comment, I do not think he did it maliciously. Yes, he should be more careful with the things he says, but when the media asks you an odd question, you sometimes say things you don't mean. Let's face it, while he is the President, he is a human first and we all say things that we wish we come to regret. I can't imagine there is anyone – including myself – who has not had a bad slip of the tongue. What I would like to see come from this is that everyone remembers that anyone can accidentally say the "wrong thing" and not immediately jump on it – especially when it comes to racial issue.

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Bill Publicover

    I am a Canadian who watches both our CTV News Net and CNN on a regular basis. I am very impressed with the fact that Canada and the United States both have "No Bull", "Common Sense" leaders. I watch as the opposition parties in each country continue to play the same old childish polical games. Prime Minister Harper and President Obama in my opinion is what our countries have needed for a long time, leaders that have our best interest in mind. Congradulations to both leaders, please continue to be professional and ignore the childish opposition. In the end, the citizens of each country will see the benifits of your leadership. The childish comments and actions of the opposition will become a distant and faded memory.

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. Ada

    I am a mother with a child with special needs, and I did not get the feeling that He meant to hurt anyone. We really need to lighten-up . We have kids right here in the US that have not eaten and this is what we are spending our time on. Lets use this same energy and go out and help someone. And it seems to me that this anger is not about the children is about trying to get favors. Before we start pointing fingers remember the things that you say that nobody knows about. We sometimes act as if we don't make mistake. Get over it and keep moving!!!!!!!!

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. Cynthia

    The fact that we have a president who would make such comments on television shows why the world hates Americans. Who could possibly vote for such a pig. That is exactly what is wrong with this country. I am personally ashamed to be an American after such comments from one of our leaders.

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. pat

    Why are people defending Obamas remarks? He applied for, and lied his way into the presidency, and into the hearts and minds of his voters.

    This is the President of the United States!!! This is the most powerful position in the world! He's on a comedy show making remarks about the Special Olympics for a laugh???

    Our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves!

    March 20, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Chris

    I can't even find the comments or the apology ...... what a protective bunch of news media ...... are they so afraid of their jobs being threatened by reporting on Obama?

    March 20, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. sandee in Portland

    OMG! I can't believe such a harmless remark would warrant making the news as well as having the Special Olympics now request he hire someone from their organization.

    What has our country come to. I would bet that most of the people on this blog have made a joke of some kind against some group, whether it be handicapped, gays, police, etc. Did that make you a bad person? I personally can't stand political correctness!

    March 20, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. Mae

    Come on now people, anything President Obama says it is put under a microscope. He is a human being and for the fact that he went on Leno is a good thing, what do you want him to do walk with his head down for four years? It seems as if we have forgotten that it was Bush that created this mess over the past 8 years and now people want Obama to wave a magic wand and make it disappear. He is human and he hasn't even been in office 100 days yet, let him asess the damage first. I didn't see anyone ridicule Bush like this, he basically got away scott free. THAT IS NOT FAIR!


    March 20, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. mfelder

    I think the more appropriate comment made by the president on the Leno show is his reference to American Idol and everyone being Simon Knowle. The sad part about hatred for another person is that you usually end up hurting yourself more than you hurt the person you hate, because they don't know about your hatred and they don't care. The end result is a bitter and angry person who has nothing constructive to offer to the world. Making decisions that affect other people lives is not as easy as it seems. The President is doing the best job that he can. So think about it, when you are really critical of another person, who is being hurt the most.

    March 20, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. Kent

    As a father of a son with a type of Autism who is involved with the Special Olympics, I am, by no means offended by President Obama's comment. He is human and humans say things that we are not always proud of. Grow up and move on. He has been busting his hump since taking office and has been working extremely hard in his effort to get this country back on track. If you want to review gaffes, review that previous eight years. As David Letterman said, now that Bush is leaving, his shows writers will have to start writing their own material again. Nuff said.

    March 20, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. John Purdue

    talking about special treatment by media. He got away with anything. had it been Bush, fire squadrons would have been summoned already.

    Long Live Obama the Almighty!!

    March 20, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  23. Kerry

    I think that the comment was not out of text. Everyone makes statements of this sort each day. News people are like a bull dog with a bone running around like look at me what i have. Now look what this has caused. A Pres of the U.S makes a off hand remark which now has media all over it but now the special needs people are in the news as well. I feel the Pres. did so to wake up the people to this wonderful group of people who do help every. News media did their job high five. The Pres did good by waking all of you up. Now maybe more coverage of this in a bright light will get more people to reach out and help. Big Hive 10 to our Pres.

    March 20, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. Drew

    Thought the election president Obama kept his personality in check. Clearly he let his guard down with Jay Leno. I don’t like it.

    March 20, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. Outsider

    President is great. Nothing wrong with his remark. If disabled think otherwise, please let them compete with everybody else. Forget the special games. You want special treatment, people even cannot mention it. Grow up or shut up.

    March 20, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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