Former President Barack Obama once felt compelled to apologize after making a joke about the Special Olympics early in his presidency.
While joking about his bowling skills on the tail end of a taping of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” in early 2009, a self-deprecating Obama described his 129 score at the White House bowling alley.
“Its like the Special Olympics or something,” he quipped to Leno.
The show hadn’t even aired when Obama called and made his apology to Special Olympics board chairman Tim Shriver aboard Air Force One.
“He expressed his disappointment and he apologized, I think, in a way that was very moving,” a forgiving Shriver told “Good Morning America,” ABC News reported. “He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population, certainly didn’t want to embarrass or give anybody any more reason for pain or just suffering, I would say. 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 and I think, importantly, he said he was ready to have some of our athletes over to the White House to bowl or play basketball or help him improve his score.”
Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has a son with Down syndrome, at the time called Obama’s comment “a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people coming from the most powerful position in the world.”
President Donald Trump’s administration came under fire this week for a budget proposal that would have cut funding for several special needs programs, including the Special Olympics. Trump quickly reversed course on Thursday, telling press: “I have overridden my people, we’re funding the Special Olympics.” (RELATED: Meghan McCain And Joy Behar Spar Over Trump’s Special Olympics Funding Issue: ‘Stick With Facts’)
“I am pleased and grateful the President and I see eye-to-eye on this issue … This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos via statement.