When a mother of a boy with Down syndrome noticed that The New York Times’ “Ethicist” had a history of using the word “retard,” she took him to task. And boy did he respond.
Kari Wagner-Peck sent an email to “Ethicist” Chuck Klosterman asking “what are the ethics of using the r-word?”
The Portland, Maine mom says she was compelled to contact Klosterman after finding multiple examples of him using variations of the word “retard” over the years.
“Today people with cognitive disabilities and their allies are asking members of society to refrain from using the word ‘retarded,’” Wagner-Peck wrote to the columnist and author in a letter that she posted on her blog.
“I am the mother of a seven-year-old son who has Down syndrome. I believe your response to my question could make all the difference in the world,” she wrote.
Wagner-Peck told WCSH that days later she was overwhelmed when Klosterman not only replied, but owned up.
“I have spent the last two days trying to figure out a way to properly address the issue you have raised on your website. I’ve slowly concluded the best way is to just be as straightforward as possible: I was wrong. You are right,” Klosterman wrote.
He went on to apologize and offered to donate $25,000 to the charity of Wagner-Peck’s choice, saying “I have done something bad, so help me do something good.”
“This is so much greater than anything I could have imagined,” Wagner-Peck told WCSH. “I was a huge fan of Chuck Klosterman before. Now I am a huge fan of a man named Chuck Klosterman who seems to have tremendous character.”