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Special Olympian Writes An Open Letter To American Commentator Ann Coulter Over Her R-Word Tweets
October 24, 2012
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Generally speaking, we don't pay much attention to American commentator Ann Coulter. But today, we're making an exception - for all the right reasons.

Monday night, during the U.S. presidential debate, Coulter (who is a conservative political analyst) sent out a tweet that said...

"I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard", referring to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Now, Coulter is no stranger to controversy. And when she has something to say, she finds a way to anger plenty of people.

Well now, a man named John Franklin Stephens has written an open letter to Coulter, asking her why she keeps using the "R-word".

Stephens is a Special Olympics athlete.

Here is his letter in its entirety, as published at specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.

It is eloquent, courageous, thoughtful and well worth a read.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren't dumb and you aren't shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I'm a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public's perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are - and much, much more.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.
Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven't made yet,

John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger
Special Olympics Virginia

As you might expect, the letter has gone viral, with more than 10 thousand 'likes' on Facebook, and more than 10 thousand Twitter shares, plus thousands of comments on the Special Olympics blog - almost all of them supporting Stephens.

In 2008, Stephens wrote a piece for the Denver Post saying the "R-word" makes him, and other people like him, feel completely excluded.

"I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone," Stephens wrote at the time.

"Nothing scares me as much as feeling all alone in a world that moves so much faster than I do."

As Stephens points out in his letter to Coulter, she has used the "R-word" before including yesterday. In criticizing a line in a campaign speech by President Obama, she tweeted...

"'Stage 3 Romneysia' - because cancer references are HILARIOUS. If he's 'the smartest guy in the room' it must be one retarded room."

Coulter got some backlash on Twitter, with people calling her comments "offensive" and "disrespectful."

Yahoo Sports columnist Jay Busbee wrote a great piece on all of this.

In it, he refers to Coulter as "a class of political commentators whose primary, if not sole, purpose is to inflame emotion, not inspire thoughtful discussion."

"She adheres to a tired, time-honored formula: throw a verbal bomb, laugh at the fallout, accuse her detractors of being stupid/unable to take a joke," Busbee writes.

He goes on to praise Stephens for his letter, calling it "a break from the unceasing negativity of the campaign season."

"Well done, Mr. Stephens," Busbee writes. "Nice job of taking the kind of positive, open-arms approach that's unthinkable to so many in public life these days."

Last month, on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Coulter had this to say about civil rights.

"We don't owe the homeless," she said. "We don't owe feminists. We don't owe women who are desirous of having abortions or gays who want to get married to one another. That's what civil rights has become for much of the left."

"Immigrant rights are not civil rights?" asked Stephanopoulos.

"No," Coulter responded. "No. I think civil rights are for blacks. What have we done to the immigrants? We owe black people something. We have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven't even been in this country."

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