Emanuel made the apology last week in a phone call to Tim Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, the White House said Tuesday.
The apology followed a Wall Street Journal account of a private White House meeting involving liberal groups and administration officials. In it, Emanuel reportedly grew exasperated at plans by some groups to run ads against Democratic lawmakers who were balking at Obama's health overhaul.
"The White House remains committed to addressing the concerns and needs of Americans living with disabilities and recognizes that derogatory remarks demean us all," a White House statement said.
Emanuel's call wasn't the first time Shriver got an Obama administration apology. The president himself telephoned in March after telling Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show" how awful his bowling scores were. "It was like the Special Olympics or something," Obama said.
In a posting on her Facebook page Monday, former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin called on Obama to fire Emanuel. Palin, whose son Trig has Down syndrome, said Emanuel's language was "heartbreaking" and a "slur on all God's children."
In addition, ABCNews.com reports that former Chicago Public Schools CEO and current Sec. of Education Arne Duncan has had to clarify remarks indicating Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans."
Duncan reportedly made the comments January 29 and was referring the fact that the city was given an opportunity to improve its public schools, which he indicated were performing poorly.
According to ABC News, Duncan issued the following statement:
"As I heard repeatedly during my visits to New Orleans, for whatever reason, it took the devastating tragedy of the hurricane to wake up the community to demand more and expect better for their children."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)