March 12, 2012
Radio and Television Correspondents Association
Executive Committee Chairman
Dear Mr. McMichael,
I am writing to you on behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society to express our deep concern with your invitation to Louis C.K. to headline the Radio and TV Correspondents Association Dinner. Comments such as: "it doesn't matter yet that it's retarded... what matters is when the kid acts the way it does now when it's fifteen years old.... [She was] holding a baby that just came out of her... f***ing retard-making c***...." Regardless of the target of the comments, a verbal attack on anyone with a disability should not be condoned in any way.
While we are aware of the apology he issued with regard to these statements, his continued use of word 'retarded,' the overall tone and substance of his language is are demeaning and hurtful to people with Down syndrome and their families. Comments such as these are exactly what we strive to work against on a daily basis.
At the National Down Syndrome Society, we understand that this display of behavior is often the result of a lack of information and/or a lack of exposure to people with cognitive disabilities. We hope that you take this opportunity to educate yourself about cognitive disabilities and gain a better understanding.
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 are inappropriately referenced or forced to be the target of this type of 'humor,' 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 acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
We ask that you remove Louis C.K. from this position and take a stand against his inappropriate comments. When those who make ignorant and hurtful comments are rewarded with public honors, it sends a message that this type of behavior is acceptable and appreciated. We encourage you to select a comedian who does not make 'jokes' at the expense of those with Down syndrome or other disabilities.
We await your reply with regard to this matter.
Julie B. Cevallos
Vice President Marketing
National Down Syndrome Society
New York, NY 10012