Over the weekend, the Young PR Pros Yahoo Group kicked around the question, “What would you do if you were the Special Olympics?” In light of President Obama cracking wise about his bowling game on the Tonight Show Thursday.
“It’s like—it was like Special Olympics or something,” Obama said to Jay Leno about his recent bowling score of 129.
Obama deputy press secretary quickly apologized (sort of) after the Tonight Show to reporters on Air Force One.
“The President made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics,” Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters. “He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world.”
Before the Tonight Show even aired Thursday, Obama also called Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, to apologize for what he had said.
On Ragan’s new Web site for PR pros, PR Daily, a commenter praised Obama’s reaction: “But once Obama removed his foot from his mouth, he exercised textbook damage control (a good example for PR types from both parties),” the commenter wrote.
The majority opinion of the Young PR Pros was that the Special Olympics should seize on the president’s gaffe—has Obama been hanging out with gaffe-prone Joe Biden too much, by the way—to illuminate the group's good works, especially given the tough year most nonprofits face. And the Special Olympics have seized the moment.
Shriver invited the Obama administration to hire a Special Olympics athlete in the White House. “In so doing, he could help end misperceptions about the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities, and demonstrate their dignity and value to the world,” Shriver said.
Meanwhile, Sarah Palin has joined the fray. Palin, whose son has Down Syndrome, condemned what the president said. “This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world,” she said.
While Palin is uniquely qualified to comment on this topic, her entry into the conversation seems conveniently political—especially since she has slammed the press for dragging her family into the spotlight. Where was Governor Palin when the film Tropic Thunder—and its excessive use of the “R-word”—came out to much hype last summer?