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Dear Ann Coulter: What Did You Mean by ‘Standard R*tard’?

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In her new book, “In Trump We Trust” (which I don’t plan to read), Ann Coulter addresses one of Donald Trump’s more disconcerting displays in which he is believed to be making fun of a New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis.

In what I believe is an effort to smooth over the incident, Coulter writes: “Trump denied knowing that Serge was disabled, and demanded an apology, saying that anyone could see his imitation was of a flustered, frightened reporter, not a disabled person. It’s true that Trump was not mimicking any mannerisms that Serge has. He doesn’t jerk around or flail his arms. He’s not retarded. He sits calmly, but if you look at his wrists, you’ll see they are curved in. That’s not the imitation Trump was doing — he was doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid: ‘Ahhh, I don’t know what I said—ahhh, I don’t remember!’ He’s going, ‘Ahhh, I don’t remember, maybe that’s what I said!’”

I have been watching Trump closely. As a woman raising a daughter, as well as my two sons with Down syndrome, I have been concerned about his apparent objectification of women and, of course, what appeared to be making fun of a person with a disability. Coulter’s explanation does little to reassure me that Trump would ever make executive decisions I would embrace as an advocate for my children, but what I really wonder is: What is a “standard retard”?

Upon getting a diagnosis of Down syndrome for my son over 14 years ago, I jumped into our local Down syndrome community and have been actively involved ever since. Additionally, I have spent time in hospitals, special education classrooms, and many other places where there are people with cognitive impairments. One thing I can say without qualification is that, in all that time, with all of these individuals, it is mind-boggling that someone would use a term like that.

First of all, people with disabilities and cognitive impairments are entirely individual. You can take any 10 people with any given diagnosis and find 10 people with different appearances, likes and dislikes, and personalities. The vast majority of generalizations of people with disabilities are easily dispelled by getting to know the people with the disability.

Second, while I realize that some people still use the term “retard” as slang, a professional commentator and writer with a law degree should arguably be able to select her words more carefully as to avoid insulting a large portion of the population that eschews the term as offensive.

But really, what I would like is clarification of what Coulter means when she uses the term “standard retard,” and why on earth she would think her explanation would ever convince any reasonable person that what Donald Trump did is acceptable.

Follow Alethea at Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Spread the Word to End the Word! You can head here to pledge to stop using the R-word. It’s a step toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.

Image via Ann Coulter’s Facebook page

Originally published: August 30, 2016
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