Chicagoans react to Obama's talk show remarks

March 21, 2009 6:36:47 AM PDT
President Obama made a joke that misfired on television Thursday night, and his comment about the Special Olympics led to a presidential apology.Some people connected to the Special Olympics community in Chicago reacted Friday to the president's comment on The Tonight Show.

The very first games of the Special Olympics were held in Chicago in 1968 and were organized by Judge Ann Burke.

For 41 years, the organization has been fighting negative stereotypes about persons with disabilities. Pres. Barack Obama's comment on The Tonight Show Thursday night has offended some.

Kathy McLaughlin, who is with Special Olympics Chicago and also a sister of a Special Olympian, does not believe the president intended to be malicious. However, she said his words comparing his bad bowling game with the Special Olympics were hurtful.

"I would dare say that many of the athletes of Special Olympics are possibly better bowlers than President Obama," McLaughlin said.

President Obama apologized Friday to Tim Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympic board, even before his off-hand remark hit the air. Shriver talked about that conversation on Good Morning America Friday.

"He was very sincere," Shriver said. "More importantly, he said he was ready to have some our athletes over to the White House, perhaps to bowl or play basketball.

In Illinois alone, there are 22,000 children and adults that participate in Special Olympics. Suzanne Thompson and her 21-year-old daughter, Caitlin Cox, have met President Obama and said they were disappointed in the remarks.

"It's time to take it and make it a learning moment, to teach people what words can do and how damaging they can be," Thompson said.

Caitlin Cox is a Special Olympian bowler. Her last score was 179.