September 20, 2011
Producer, Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen
Tenth Planet Productions
3450 Cahuega Blvd W. Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90068
cc: Charlie Sheen, Anthony Jeselnik, Seth MacFarlane
Dear Mr. Gallen,
I am writing to you on behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society to express our concern and great disappointment with the comments made during the "Roast of Charlie Sheen" that aired on Comedy Central on Monday, September 19, 2011. Particularly offensive are Anthony Jeselnik's remark, "You've convinced more women to have abortions than the pre-natal test for Down syndrome," and Seth MacFarlane's use of "mentally retarded" and "special needs comedian" in his introduction to Jeff Ross. It is demeaning and hurtful to people with Down syndrome and their families to use their disability as the basis for humor.
Approximately 400,000 people in the United States have Down syndrome, which is caused by a third copy of chromosome 21. Individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities work very hard – harder than most people – to learn how to read, write, play musical instruments, participate in sports, live independently, and become valuable members of their communities. They deserve to be respected and celebrated for their success and achievements, and not to have their clinical diagnosis used as a punch-line. More often than not, these individuals are underestimated their whole lives by people who focus on their disability, rather than their abilities.
When people with Down syndrome and other disabilities are inappropriately referenced and their clinical diagnoses used as a joke, it sustains and perpetuates these low expectations and negative stereotypes, and further impedes the acceptance of people with disabilities in schools, the workplace, and the community. Negative and inaccurate public perceptions are the greatest barriers the National Down Syndrome Society faces in achieving the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
We request that you issue a policy at Comedy Central that would prohibit and prevent the airing of programming with comments using the clinical diagnosis of Down syndrome, the word "retarded" or any form of it, and making hurtful 'jokes' at the expense of individuals with Down syndrome.
I look forward to receiving your response, and working to find a way to show your support for those with Down syndrome. Together we can break down stereotypes and educate the public about the true potential of those with Down syndrome.
Julie B. Cevallos
Vice President Marketing
National Down Syndrome Society
New York, NY 10012