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PAC for People with Disabilities Demands McDonnell Apology

A political action committee in Northern Virginia that advocates on behalf of people with disabilities is calling on gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell to apologize for remarks made by a top supporter that mocked state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds's manner of speaking.

The controversy arose after Sheila Johnson, the billionaire co-founder of Black Entertainment Television who is backing McDonnell, mimicked Deeds's talking style during a Sept. 25 campaign event as she criticized his inability to communicate effectively. A video of her remarks has received a lot of play on the Web since its posting this week by liberal blogger Ben Tribbett.

"Sheila Johnson enjoys the same freedom of speech that all Americans have, but we are appalled and saddened that she used a political speech and introduction of the Republican candidate for Governor Bob McDonnell to laugh at people who have speech impediments," said Martha J. Toomey, a co-founder of disAbility Votes. The PAC, which is endorsing Deeds, has also supported candidates seeking to broaden insurance coverage for children with autism. "We are especially concerned that the message Mr. McDonnell seems to be endorsing is that of a playground bully making fun of a child who has disabilities. This is unacceptable."

Johnson later apologized. Earlier Tuesday, McDonnell declined to apologize for Johnson's remarks, saying that she had issued a statement "she believed was appropriate."

-- Fredrick Kunkle

By Washington Post Editors  |  October 6, 2009; 5:53 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Fredrick Kunkle , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Comments

Deeds is so desperate he's trying to get mileage out of this? Wow. Rock bottom can't be far away..

Posted by: SMWE357 | October 6, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised the Post is pushing this story. You've stuck so closely to the issues. You let the thesis story go and got back to the issues relevant for this election. You're not interested in using social issues to get people fired up for the election (that's what Republicans do, right?)--you want to talk eduction, the economy, etc. You've criticized Deeds for focusing solely on a 20-year-old thesis and refusing to debate McDonnell more about the actual issues.

What's going on over there? I mean, what does this story have to do with who's going to be our next governor? And why does the Post sound more like TMZ.com than a reputable news source?

Posted by: OlMcCreedy | October 6, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

In related news, Tom Delay is leaving Dancing with the Stars because of stress fractures in his feet. What's Deeds position on that? Whatever it is, Delay probably will demand an apology.

See what you can do about getting a post up on that as soon as you can. Quite a few undecided voters are still out there . . .

Posted by: OlMcCreedy | October 6, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Seems like previous comments penned by McDonnell campaign staff, as usual.
Bottom line, the public knows what Sheila Johnson was saying...that is, simply mocking another person.

Shame on her. She's a disgrace to herself, her family and Mr. McDonnell!

Posted by: shrad433 | October 6, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Bob McDonnell thinks that being friends with a billionaire means you never have to say you're sorry.

Bad enough that McDonnell, who was clearly present when Sheila Johnson stooped to schoolyard meanness and made fun of Creigh Deeds for his stammer, said NOTHING in the moment.

Now, he doesn't have the good sense to apologize for remaining silent as he witnessed Johnson mocking Deeds. In fact, he has flat-out refused to apologize.

Bob McDonnell clearly needs a refresher course at his alma mater -- Regent University founded by televanelist Pat Robertson -- on what it means to be a Christian and a leader in today's world.

He certainly wouldn't appreciate it if someone were to make fun of him because he is so short. And, I am sure Ms. Johnson wouldn't appreciate it if someone used her gender, race or weight to ridicule her.

I don't know what McDonnell can possibly hope to gain by refusing to apologize for the hurt this bizarre display has caused NOT only for Deeds, but for children and adults everywhere who have a disability.

One thing is certain: he has lost my vote and that of other parents I know who daily struggle to help their children overcome disabilities and have productive and meaningful lives.

Posted by: wolfies | October 7, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

As the person who is quoted in Mr. Kunkle's article I would like to add that my son was taunted in his classroom, called "retard" over and over. "Hit the retard." was yelled repeatedly. Then, another student physically assaulted my then 12 year old son, and he was out of school for 2 years, too traumatized to attend school.

Don't tell me that words don't hurt. Words count. Words are the way humans communicate their thoughts, their opinions. Using words to hurt others is just completely unacceptable.

This disability advocate doesn't sit back and let people trivialize the real pain and real tyranny of oppression.....

Posted by: Supermom1 | October 7, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

I understand your point. People with disabilities should obviously not ever be made fun of because of their disabilities.

But what does that have to do with the election? Johnson's comments were unfortunate. But do you think it will affect McDonnell's policies as governor? No politician is going to be against anything for people with disabilities. It would be political suicide.

I understand why people would be offended. But it really has nothing to do with this race or the issues McDonnell will face as governor. So it's irrational to let something like that affect your vote.

Posted by: OlMcCreedy | October 7, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

This issue is most relevant. As Attorney General Bob McDonnell repeatedly refused to enforce state and federal laws concerning accessibility for people with disabilities to public buildings, most particularly public schools.

Virginia had laws concerning accessibility long before the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA)was passed in 1990 and became law in 1992.

McDonnell's silence then, and his callous disregard now, bode ill for the rights of people with disabilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Posted by: wolfies | October 7, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Obviously, Bob McDonnell intends to be the governor of only the rich and temporarily able-bodied. He appears to have decided that "gimps and crips" don't matter and that people who stammer or stutter have no place in politics. Bobby & John Kennedy both stammered and paused in their speeches as did Franklin D. Roosevelt.

No wonder that unemployment of people with disabilities is at an all-time high in Virginia. The fact that he refuses to apologize send a loud message that he approves of what Sheila Johnson did when mocked and ridiculed Deeds.

Can we afford a Governor who intends to ignore one out of every 5 Virginians and to take money from education to improve transportation? I don't think so! Please join me in voting for a man that has a moral center rather than one who has sold his to the highest bidder.

Posted by: dissentmatters | October 7, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Actually Bob McDonnell has used his stint as AG to file several amicus briefs that would undermine the ADA. The disability community sees the Federalism fight every day. Virginia ranks 47th in services to people like my son, a stunning "achievement" considering the wealth of a place like Middleburg or Tyson's Corner.

It may be politically unpopular to diss people with disabilities in other states, but Virginians with disabilities are used to lack of services, waiting lists for services and lack of information. Progress comes slowly, and Gov Kaine has tried hard. These spending decisions, allocation of resources if you will, are made in Richmond during their short legislative session. Even in the good economic times disability was way down on their radar in budget talks.

We still have hundreds and hundreds of people on waiting lists - can you imagine the uproar if cancer patients or cardiac patients had to wait 10 or 15 years for basic services through Medicare or Medicaid? it is tantamount to refusing medical care.

FYI: The PAC is NOT non-profit and has filed with the state Board of Elections.

Posted by: jackdog | October 7, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I would think that even if this woman thinks it is acceptable to mock someone's speech impediment,she might at least refrain from making insulting, degrading comments for political reasons. She can't be but so stupid, as she has made millions. What could have motivated such a moronic move? Is she not aware of the careers that have gone down in flames by others who had no control over their tongues? Fact of the matter is . . . such insults indicate a character flaw in the speaker. If McDonell was present, he should apologize. If he was not present, he at least ought to indicate his displeasure with such disgusting behavior.

Posted by: elizabe309 | October 7, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

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