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President Obama Offends Special Olympics

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Obama apologizes for Special Olympics gaffe on "The Tonight Show."

President Barack Obama has apologized to the chairman of the Special Olympics for his late-night talk show quip equating his bowling skills to those of athletes with disabilities.

Appearing on "The Tonight Show" Thursday, the president told host Jay Leno he'd been practicing at the White House's bowling alley but wasn't happy with his score of 129. Then he remarked: "It was like the Special Olympics or something."

barack obama on jay leno

The audience laughed, but the White House quickly recognized the blunder. The Special Olympics is a non-profit organization dedicated to individuals with mental and physical disabilities.

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.

"He expressed his disappointment and he apologized in a way that was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population," Shriver said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America." Obama, Shriver said, wants to have some Special Olympic athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball.

Still, Shriver said, "I think it's important to see that words hurt and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seem as humiliating or a put down to people with special needs do cause pain and they do result in stereotypes."

Shriver is the son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose endorsement early in the Democratic primaries was critical to Obama winning his party's nomination.

Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters traveling with Obama that the president's offhand remark was not meant to disparage the Special Olympics, only to poke some fun at the commander in chief's bowling skills.

"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 said.

Despite making fun of his score, the president appears to be getting better the more he visits the White House lanes, which President Truman installed in 1947. During a campaign photo op a year ago at a bowling alley in Altoona, Pa., he rolled only a 37 in seven frames. The clip of the disastrous game was replayed on late night television shows such as Leno's -- one of Obama's few campaign gaffes.

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13 comments so far | Post a comment now
cyndi March 20, 2009, 2:11 PM

Who is surprised by this? I’m certainly not—this president has no respect for human life, so why should he have any compassion for the disabled? I predict we’ll see a lot more of this in the next 3 1/2 years, unfortunately….

Anonymous March 20, 2009, 3:12 PM

I lol’d at cyndi’s comment.

nikki March 20, 2009, 3:31 PM

Poor Cyndi…you put up with 8 years of BS and now, how horrible it must be for you to have to see change. Its ok…because he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Jill (the other one) March 20, 2009, 7:35 PM

I’m glad he apologized. I wish people would stop using the Special Olympics as a joke … it’s a worthwhile organization that does a lot of good in the world. And I’m willing to bet that a lot of Special Olympians bowl better than the president does …

angela March 20, 2009, 9:30 PM

I’m not a big fan of Obama’s,but come on he was joking.We have to watch everything we say now days.It was a slip of the tongue.Its like all the African Americans screaming raciest and suing any white person for saying anything they don’t agree with.Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton running anywhere the can to get a law suit.He was kidding,nothing meant by it.Get over it,we have more important things to deal with.

obama mamma March 20, 2009, 9:32 PM

I Lol’d at Cyndi’s comment too…

Chrissy March 21, 2009, 5:28 AM

I lol’d Cundi’s comment also!

Alicia March 21, 2009, 8:39 PM

I agree with angela

Rachel March 21, 2009, 10:58 PM

At least this president apologizes for his mistakes…FORMER (thank god) President Bush acted like he was God’s gift to America…yeah, a lot of good he did us. We totally “misunderestimated” that man. I never thought he was capable of doing so much damage to this country! Oh, how happy I am that we are no longer under his administration!

tony legaspi March 23, 2009, 6:43 PM

Rachel you should move some place rather than America.This country were run by Republican.He made a lousy commet about disabled and you think its okey!

Rachel March 23, 2009, 11:44 PM

Tony: Yes, this country was run by a Republican…quite badly I might say. And no, I do NOT think it was okay for Obama to make the comment that he did. However, I do forgive people when they APOLOGIZE AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. Why should I have to leave America simply because I think people should own their wrongdoings? People make mistakes…my point was that at least he owns them unlike our last president.

NYCity Mama March 24, 2009, 8:04 AM

Wow is it that when you share your political “liberal” opinion the first thing a Republican says is move out of the country? WTF. I am sooooo sick of hearing that being told to me…I wonder if the reason it is so easily thrown at me is because I am obviously Latina and “they” don’t think this IS my country and thus any comment deserves exportation? So, then…how about THAT or insensitive remarks and discrimination? Just pointing out that people can get holier than thou “No respect for human life”? Seriously?? “Move out of the country”? Really??? Good grief people! Chill out.

CAROLINA GIRL March 24, 2009, 9:21 AM

Well I got news people Obama is screwing up!!!!!!! Look at all the money he’s already wasted. Fanny Mae and Freddy Mack already giving Bonus with your money.George BUSH WAS A BAD PRESIDENT,but if you think Obama is going to save us,you better think again.We are going to be so broke>He didn’t think out this stimulus plan just wanted it passed.My state will not even take this money because if you take it you have to keep spending the same amount in years to come and that will do nothing but rasie taxes.Obama you do need to watch your mouth you may be president but your not God!!!!

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