As the presidential campaign hits fever pitch, conservative political commentator Ann Coulter is taking heat for her repeated use of the word “retard.”
Coulter has taken to using the term — which is considered offensive by many with disabilities — on Twitter in recent weeks. Now her comments are generating significant backlash from the special needs community.
Initially, Coulter took to Twitter in late September, criticizing President Barack Obama by writing, “I had no idea how crucial the retarded vote is in this election.”
The tweet sparked a handful of responses from parents of those with disabilities requesting that Coulter stop using the offensive term. Some asked the right-wing pundit for an apology.
“STOP using that word! It’s like freaking nails on a chalkboard!” wrote actress and autism advocate Holly Robinson Peete to Coulter on the social network.
This week, however, Coulter continued to use the “r-word.”
“I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard,” Coulter tweeted in response to the final presidential debate Monday night.
She followed up with another comment Tuesday morning, also referring to Obama, that read “If he’s ‘the smartest guy in the room’ it must be one retarded room.”
Coulter’s choice of words is yielding criticism from bloggers and Twitter users as well as major organizations like Special Olympics, which has campaigned against the use of the word “retard” for years, and called it “sad to see (Coulter) continue her use of hateful language.”
At least one self-advocate is also speaking out, inviting Coulter to learn more about people like himself.
“You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV,” wrote John Franklin Stephens, who has Down syndrome, in an open letter to Coulter on the Special Olympics blog. “Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.”