As White House Goes Blue, Trump ‘Cure’ Comment Draws Backlash
For the first time ever, the White House turned blue for autism awareness, but not everyone affected by the developmental disorder is happy about it.
Blue lights illuminated 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Sunday night as part of Autism Speaks’ “Light It Up Blue” campaign. The annual effort encourages landmarks around the globe to go blue for World Autism Awareness Day.
The move came alongside a presidential proclamation marking the day, which touched on everything from autism prevalence to the needs of those during transition and efforts to understand the causes and improve treatments for the developmental disorder.
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The seven-paragraph statement also included some controversial points.
“My administration is committed to promoting greater knowledge of ASDs and encouraging innovation that will lead to new treatments and cures for autism,” President Donald Trump wrote.
The comments — particularly the reference to curing autism — did not sit well with self advocates.
“After a decade of progress in which public conversations about autism have increasingly shifted away from tragedy and fear and towards acceptance and inclusion, the White House’s actions signal a disturbing attempt to drag autistic people back to the margins,” the Autistic Self Advocacy Network said in a statement denouncing the president for his proclamation and for participating in the Light It Up Blue effort.
Talking about cures “does not help autistic people or our families,” the group said, adding that such talk is “a dangerous fringe position.”
Even Autism Speaks has moved away from using words like “cure.” Last year, the group introduced an updated mission statement dropping such language in favor of a focus on “promoting solutions.”
The White House was one of thousands of landmarks, homes and businesses in over 150 countries to participate in Light It Up Blue this year, Autism Speaks said. Other recognizable locations that went blue over the weekend included Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that by participating in Light It Up Blue Trump was following through on a promise he made to the late Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright while she was battling pancreatic cancer last year.
“He said, if I’m elected president, in supporting this cause that you care so deeply about, I will light the White House blue. So it is in Suzanne and Bob Wright’s honor that this will occur for this great cause,” Spicer told reporters late last week.
Back in 2011, Autism Speaks asked the Obama administration to turn the White House blue for World Autism Awareness Day, but was turned down. No reason was given for declining the request.