White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel today will meet at the White House with a handful of advocates for people with intellectual disabilities, following an incident in which he called a group of liberals "retarded."
Emanuel came under fire from former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose son has Down Syndrome, and groups like the Special Olympics after it was reported that he told liberal activists in a private meeting that they were "F-ing retarded."
President Obama's chief of staff reportedly already apologized to Tim Shriver, the CEO of the Special Olympics, after Shriver sent a letter to him about the incident. Nevertheless, Emanuel will meet today with Shriver, as well Andrew Imparato, president of American Association of People with Disabilities; Julie Petty, former president of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered; parent and special needs advocate Hannah Jacobs; and Ricardo Thornton, self-advocate and Special Olympics athlete.
"The meeting will be a face-to-face discussion with Rahm Emanuel about the suffering and pain of people with intellectual disabilities that is perpetuated by the use of the terms 'retard' and 'retarded' as well as the damage that can be done by the casual use of the R-word – even if it is not directed toward people with intellectual disabilities," according to the Special Olympics Web site.
The group will invite Emanuel to join the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign on March 3, which aims to end the use of the "R-word."
Update: The Special Olympics clarified to Politico that Shriver never actually accepted Emanuel's initial apology.
"Tim didn't accept his apology," said Kirsten Seckler, vice president for communications at the Special Olympics. "Tim can't do that. He can't accept an apology on behalf of all people with disabilities."
However, after today's meeting, the Special Olympics released a statement saying, "We are thankful to Mr. Emanuel for meeting with us today and hearing our concerns. He sincerely apologized for his mistake and the pain it caused in our community."
The statement reported that Emanuel said the administration would continue to look for ways to partner the group, including examining pending legislation to remove the "R-word" from federal law. They also noted Emanuel will be joining their campaign against the "R-word."
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