President Obama's 'Special Olympics' Joke Lands Him In Hot Water
President Barack Obama's appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" Thursday night was memorable for a number of reasons: Their conversation ranged from the controversial AIG bonuses to [url id="http://newsroom.mtv.com/2009/03/20/president-obama-compares-washington-dc-to-american-idol/"]"American Idol,"[/url] and the president joked around quite a bit. However, one of those jokes has gotten the president into hot water.
When asked about the bowling alley in the White House, Obama joked to Leno that his average score of 129 "was like the Special Olympics or something." Although, neither Leno or Obama seemed bothered by the comment during the show, the White House issued a statement apologizing for it before the show aired.
"[Obama] thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world," Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters, adding that Obama only meant the comment to be a be a funny quip about his poor bowling skills, according to The Associated Press.
Although Leno and Obama talked about everything from the state of the economy to "life in the bubble" to his hope that he will eventually get a basketball court at the White House, it was the Special Olympics comment that most people were talking about.
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver, who said Obama called him from Air Force One to apologize for the comment, talked about it on ABC's "Good Morning America" Friday morning (March 20).
"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, adding that Obama said he would like to have some Special Olympic athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball.
Shriver added that despite the apology, "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."