Obama "joke" no laughing matter for disability advocates

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The country was waiting to see President Obama last night on late night TV.

However, while appearing on the program, the President made a joke about how badly he bowls.

Many have said it was in bad taste. The President has apologized, but even his supporters say  it really was a bit insensitive.

President Obama's joke turned into a gutter ball by this morning, after the President compared his lack of bowling skills to those of Special Olympians.

"It's unfortunate. I mean. I like him a lot. It's a trifle insensitive," Shelly Cohli told WTOC.

Cohli and her 16-year-old daughter Emily, know a thing or two about special needs. The joke may have hurt, but they and others we spoke to, aren't turning their backs on the President just yet.

"I don't want to see people get turned off because of it," Cohli said.

"I am a huge Obama fan, I just think he's great. I do think it was insensitive though," said another supporter.

"It illustrates how easy it is to slip into a moment of insensitivity," Bill Oakley, Goodwill Industries, told WTOC.

Goodwill helps raise money for the disabled.

"I am delighted he was immediately cognizant of the damage these remarks might make," Oakley said.

President Obama did apologize to the Special Olympics after the Tonight Show with Jay Leno was taped.

The Special Olympics released this statement to WTOC, saying, "words hurt and words matter." They go on to say, "This is a teachable moment for our country," accepting the President's apology.

"To some people it might be offensive," Emily Cohlie told WTOC. "But he did apologize, so I do give him credit for that."

The Special Olympians will take to the bowling alleys again this July. President Obama's supporters hope this whole issue is bowled over by then.

"I think we all make mistakes. We get caught in a moment and we wish we could have that back and not let those words slip out," the supporter said. "I think it was a slip of the tongue and we should go forward from there."

"I don't think it's that big of a deal. I think is unfortunate, but I don't want to see that big a deal made out of it. We have a lot more going on right now. It's small compared to what we have going on right now," Shelly Cohlie said.

Arc of Effingham, disabled advocates, also released a statement. Director Nina Dasher tells WTOC, regarding the President's joke, she, "voted for Obama and believes he is interested in improving the lives of people who are disadvantaged. She would hope that he means,  although he bowls badly, he enjoys it for the fun of it and not for the score, as is the case with many who participate in Special Olympics."

If you would like to read the entire statement from the Special Olympics, click here.

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