President Obama is apologizing for a flippant joke aimed at the Special Olympics during his appearance on The Tonight Show on Thursday.
The President, discussing his mediocre bowling skills with host Jay Leno, said he was disappointed with his latest score of 129.
“It was like the Special Olympics or something,” the President said.
On his way back to Washington on Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say he was sorry, even before the taped program aired late Thursday night.
“He expressed his disappointed and he apologized in a way that was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population,” Shriver said Friday on ABC’s Good Morning America. Obama, Shriver said, wants to have some Special Olympic athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball.
Still, Shriver said, “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.”
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters traveling with Obama that the president’s offhand remark was not meant to disparage the Special Olympics, only to poke some fun at the commander-in-chief’s bowling skills.
“He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world,” Burton said.