Schwarzenegger, Shriver weigh in on Obama's 'Special Olympics' remark
Are you upset about Obama's 'Special Olympics' remark?
From the: The Sacramento Bee
WASHINGTON – California's first couple jumped into the fray Friday after President Barack Obama joked about his feeble bowling skills by saying: "It was like Special Olympics or something."
Obama, who made the joke on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on Thursday night, apologized. But the remark caused an immediate stir in Washington and around the nation.
California first lady Maria Shriver – whose mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the organization in 1968 – said she was confident Obama did not intend to offend anyone.
But she said in a statement that the episode indicated "the need to continue to educate the non-disabled community on the issues that confront those with a developmental disability."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who noted he is no stranger to verbal missteps himself, said he knew the president meant nothing by it.
"I know where his heart is at," Schwarzenegger told reporters at the White House after meeting with Obama to discuss roads and bridges. "I know where his heart is at. He loves Special Olympics, 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 Republican Gov. Sarah Palin, the mother of a son with Down syndrome, said she was "shocked to learn" about Obama's comment.
"This was a degrading remark about our world's most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world," Palin said. "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."
The White House sought to explain that Obama intended no offense.
"The president made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics," said White House spokesman Bill Burton.
Obama issued his apology to Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, the brother of Maria Shriver. Schwarzenegger considers the Special Olympics his favorite charity, appearing at major competitions and raising money around the world.
Tim Shriver told "Good Morning America" that there's a Special Olympics athlete from Detroit who has bowled three perfect games and would be thrilled to offer the president some tips.
In her statement, Maria Shriver said that her mother had dedicated her life "to fighting stereotypes and ridicule for this community, and there is still much work to be done."
"The president's apology for his comments and his commitment to bringing the Special Olympics to the White House are important first steps in shedding light on this important issue," she said. "Oftentimes we don't realize that when we laugh at comments like this it hurts millions of people throughout the world. People with special needs are great athletes and productive citizens, and I look forward to working with the president to knock down myths and stereotypes about this community."