The day a Special Olympian stood up to Ann Coulter for calling Obama a “retard”

With the Olympics coming up next week, it’s also time for the Special Olympics in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which began yesterday, and the Paralympics, which will take place in Sochi, Russia in March.

All of that got me remembering something that happened during the presidential debates in 2012 with our good friend Ann Coulter, who thought it wise to tweet the following: “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”

It wasn’t the first time that Coulter has used the word “retard” to attempt to denigrate someone, but this time the conservative “pundit” quickly met her match when a Special Olympian, John Franklin Stephens, replied with a well-reasoned open letter to her that blew everyone away.

John Franklin Stephens

John Franklin Stephens

Stephens showed considerably more thought and consideration than Coulter did. He took her to task point by point. He described how difficult life can be for those who have a degree of mental retardation. Then he went on to explain that in spite of their many difficulties, people who suffer from mental retardation maintain a positive attitude in their lives and actually enjoy living.

He’s quite polite and gentle with Coulter, to his credit, and eloquent to boot. He shows clearly that being called a “retard” is far from insulting. It’s actually an enduring and powerful compliment.  His response got quite a bit of deserved attention from the media.

I’ve had patients who have had some degree of mental disability. Not surprisingly, they are often as hard working, goal oriented, practical, and as good of people as all my other patients. Many have an extraordinarily positive attitude, in spite of having to cope with huge problems on a daily basis. John can explain it much better than I can from his personal perspective.

He posted his open letter on the Special Olympics Blog at WordPress.  You can read that below, and then I posted a CNN appearance stephens did as well.

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

Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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36 Responses to “The day a Special Olympian stood up to Ann Coulter for calling Obama a “retard””

  1. IJR says:

    Would there be outrage if someone called Ann Coulter a “stupid whore”?
    Not from me.

  2. Drew2U says:

    …Here’s the difference–Obama used it in a self-deprecating manner and then APOLOGIZED. Ann has never apologized.

  3. liberalenigma says:

    Ann Cannot Understand Normal Thinking

  4. Snorkel68 says:

    I wonder if this guy publicly condemned Obama for his slam on Special Olympians on that night time talk show a few years ago??

  5. Anonymous says:

    And when she does make a fool of herself publicly, she’s always being railroaded by the media. I mean, who expects you to prepare for a debate anyway?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Somewhere, Sarah Palin heard a Democrat say it, so it’s okay. Don’t you know once a Democrat says something, Republicans can bleat it in a chorus with impunity?

    I would love to see Sarah Palin publicly answer this question. She’d never do it. Just like Ann never responded to John.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well, we both agree she would be one for free :)

  8. Zorba says:

    But tell us how you really feel about her, Thom. Don’t hold back!
    And I agree with you. I cannot stand the woman.

  9. vickif says:

    I like that. That sounds just like her.

  10. mgardener says:

    Where was sarah palin’s outrage?
    Oh that’s right, Ann is a republican. So she can use that word in a derogatory fashion and it’s OK.
    Ann is a mean nasty woman.John Franklin Stephens has more class then ann coulter any day.

  11. Thom Allen says:

    Let’s compromise. She’s a dim-witted fascist, rabid bitch, publicity whore, disgusting piece of dog excrement.

  12. gmag39 says:

    Is there a more VILE individual than Ann Coulter? She’s evil.

  13. Anonymous says:

    She works for a network that specializes in childish verbal diarrhea.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’d replace “publicity whore” with “rabid dog”

  15. Anonymous says:

    Cockroaches scatter in the light…she will stick to her sewer

  16. Anonymous says:

    Really no easier way to take wingnuts down than to just act like a decent person. It embarrasses them.

  17. Thom Allen says:

    She’s such a publicity whore, I think she’d do it for free. Which is much more than she’s worth.

  18. Thom Allen says:

    Yes, “R” doesn’t apply to the mentally handicapped, it means “loser.” She is being bullied by liberals, deliberately misunderstood, etc.

  19. Thom Allen says:

    When the Coultart used the R word previously, Caribou Barbie was as silent as the permafrost. Even after several people posted that they had brought it to her attention, she remained mute. Pity she doesn’t become mute more often. Like 24/7.

  20. ComradeRutherford says:

    Allright, John Franklin Stevens!

  21. karmanot says:

    I like the Coulter as barf metaphor.

  22. karmanot says:

    Technically Coulter is so shallow she’s two-dimensional. To overlook that is a sign of compassion and the grace of a gentleman.

  23. Silver_Witch says:

    Of course not – she is not paid to respond just to create broohaha.

  24. We must have had a problem before with people using the word, I thus included it in the filter.

  25. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Beautiful. Did Coulter have a response?

  26. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Not really irony, just one of a list of words that automatically gets posts held before being shown.

  27. MoonDragon says:

    While I am well and truly awed by people with the quickness of response of Stephen Colbert, I sometimes think we would all be better off if we slowed down a bit. Miss Coulter’s quickness is that of a flea that responds to a threat, but always seems to jump in the wrong direction. Falling back on the use of the “R as insult” response, oddly, doesn’t even demonstrate quickness, but rather a lack of imagination and a reliance on a predigested substances regurgitated without thought in response to a set of stimuli.

  28. HeartlandLiberal says:

    Yep. Posting without the “R” word went through just fine.

    Irony confirmed.

  29. HeartlandLiberal says:

    OK, another test. This comment will NOT include the word starting with “R” used in this article to describe those mentally handicapped. Two prior attempts to post did include that word, and both apparently were held for moderation. If that is what’s going on, I would say there is some irony at work here.

  30. alboy2 says:

    This was just beautiful. Unfortunately, it will have zero impact on “Mann” Coulter. She’s a performance artist, much like Limbaugh, who longs to be taken seriously as a political commentator. That ship has sailed…she’s a bomb-throwing, insulting pile of excrement. The world would be a far better place if her ilk did not exist. Let’s just stop giving her a platform to expel her hatred and ignorance.

  31. Indigo says:

    I especially like his use of the phrase “bullied as a child by people like you” in reference to her comment. He sees clearly, she is a bully.

  32. heimaey says:

    It would be more interesting to see Ann Coulter face this young man in person and explain her actions.

  33. Peter Castle says:

    Coulter continues to use words like that – for the purpose of putting other people down and elevating herself.

    See Vanity: Ann Coulter’s Quest for Glory, available at

  34. S1AMER says:

    Thanks for posting this. I remember being so pleased to see this at the time, and it’s good to see it again as a reminded.

  35. vonlmo says:

    Any word if Sarah Palin was offended as well?

  36. lynchie says:

    He did a very kind, thoughtful take down of this hateful bitch

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