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Ann Coulter's backward use of the 'r-word'

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
updated 8:06 PM EDT, Wed October 24, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Conservative pundit Ann Coulter draws criticism for calling President Obama "retard" on Twitter
  • It's not the first time she's used the word in this election season, special needs blogger says
  • She must know "the r-word" is offensive and doesn't care, Ellen Seidman says

(CNN) -- Parents of children with special needs are demanding an apology from conservative political pundit Ann Coulter for tweeting after Tuesday's foreign policy debate that she approved of "Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard."

It appeared to be a response to critiques of Mitt Romney's debate performance, but it wasn't the first time Coulter used the "the r-word" during this election season. And, it's not the first time blogger Ellen Seidman has called her out on it.

"At this point, I'm thinking the woman must surely be aware that the word is offensive, and she chooses not to care. That's pretty vile and heartless," said Seidman, the mother of a special needs child who shares her world on the blog "Love that Max."

"You want to slam the president, go ahead. But you can't think of any other word to use? Come on."

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The word "retard" demeans Max and millions more with intellectual disabilities, Seidman tweeted at Coulter. Still, the comment was favorited 1,215 times and earned 2,993 retweets as of this writing, presumably by a number of people who didn't find it offensive. But sentiments from those who chose to respond to Coulter on Twitter ranged from disappointment to outrage.

"You disgust me. That man is the president of this country. (& I'm sure all of the disabled children in America appreciate you.)," actor Sophia Bush tweeted.

"Politics aside, this tweet from @anncoulter was offensive & disgusting. ANY use of the "R" word is unacceptable," @amurphy217 said.

The Special Olympics also condemned her use of the word, saying that it was "sad to see @AnnCoulter continue her use of hateful language by using the #Rword in her discourse."

In an open letter directed at Coulter posted Tuesday on the Special Olympics blog, John Franklin Stephens, a 30-year-old Special Olympian with Down syndrome, described what the word meant to him: "I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

"Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next. ... 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."

Even people known for their sense of humor came out against it. Comedian and Twitter personality @UncleDynamite resurfaced a 2-year-old post from his tumblr in which he explained why he would no longer follow anyone he saw using "the r-word."

He re-posted it after seeing people retweeting and favoriting the tweet, which he found disturbing coming from a a "well-educated, self-described Christian with such a huge public presence."

He hopes she'll read it and maybe have a change of heart, but he's not necessarily counting on it.

What do you think of Coulter's comment? Sound off with CNN iReport

"Based upon Ann's tweets today, I'd say she's dug in and unrepentant," he said Tuesday in an e-mail. "She must not know, love or respect anyone with an intellectual disability, then, and more's the pity. I'd like to see her after a great day of volunteering at a Special Olympics or Best Buddies event. I'd lay odds she'd never think or say the r-word word ever again, and she'd probably be quick to anger if someone she heard did so."

Others observing the controversy surmised that Coulter used the word solely to draw attention.

"Guys. Ann Coulter is trolling you. Always. Outrage gives her strength. The only thing that will kill her? Complete & utter indifference," @PaprbakPrincess tweeted.

Congress banned the use of the words "retard" and "retardation" in 2010 in federal health, education and labor laws in favor of using the words "intellectual disability." The American Psychiatric Association also plans to replace the term "mental retardation" with "intellectual development disorder" in the fifth version of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to be published by in 2013.

Then why do people cling to the word, Seidman and people like her wonder. She has posed the question before in her blog, which is probably why she woke this morning to find a slew of tweets and e-mails asking her to call out Coulter again for repeatedly using "the r-word" to describe President Obama.

The last time was just a few weeks ago in a blog post called "Let's talk about people who cling to the word 'retard.' " In the post, she recounted a series of recent examples of the word being used: in a New York Times article, in the comments of a YouTube video she made for the Special Olympics' annual campaign to end the use of the word, in the comments section of a CNN.com article.

She also included Coulter's last tweet about a video the president made for the National Forum on Disability Issues: "Been busy, but is Obama STILL talking about that video? I had no idea how crucial the retarded vote is in this election."

"Many people think that using the word 'retard' to slam someone is fineā€”as long as it's not actually directed at a person with disability. I've had plenty of people argue with me over that distinction. What people don't understand is that every time someone uses the word 'retard,' they perpetuate the idea that people with intellectual disability, like my son, Max, are stupid or losers," Seidman said in an e-mail Tuesday.

"As I've said before, my son shouldn't be defined by ghosts of stereotypes past. He has enough to contend with in this world. Use. Another. Word."

Do you use the "r-word"? Do you object to its use? Please share your opinions respectfully in the comments section below.

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