Obama apologises for Special Olympics wisecrack
Los Angeles - US President Barack Obama has offered a "moving, sincere" apology for a wisecrack in which he compared his notoriously bad bowling skills to those of handicapped participants at the Special Olympics, the chairman of the US Special Olympics board said Friday.
Tim Shriver told Good Morning America that the president called to apologize even before his taped remarks on the Jay Leno show were broadcast Thursday night.
"He expressed his disappointment and he apologized, I think in a way that was very moving," Shriver said on the ABC network's morning show. "He was very sincere, expressed an interest and an openness in being more engaged in the movement and said he was a fan of the movement."
More importantly, Shriver said he wanted to invite Special Olympics athletes to the White House "to bowl or play basketball or help him improve his score."
Obama was forced to apologize after he told Leno about his low bowling score at the private White House bowling alley.
"It's like the Special Olympics or something," the president said.
However the effort to be self-deprecating ended up insulting the millions of handicapped athletes who overcome enormous challenges to compete in their sporting fields.
Shriver said that such moments can reinforce the stereotypes of people with special needs.
"I think it's important to see that words hurt, and these words can in some way be seen as humiliating or a put-down to people with special needs," Said Shriver, who added that such remarks are "almost oppressive" of people with special needs.
In addition to the phone call to Shriver, the White House also issued a statement apologizing for the slip-up.
"The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics," said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton.
It was not the first time that Obama's clumsy attempts at humour have backfired. Just days after winning the election last November he apologized to former first lady Nancy Reagan after he joked about her reported practice of holding seances. (dpa)