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Walters and Goldberg: It’s Okay to say “retarded”

In GP comments, we’ve seen the occasional mini-kerfuffle over someone’s references to the mentally handicapped: whether they were hurtful, or whether the critics (those claiming hurt) were just playing mind games, etc.

In that light, it’s interesting to note that beloved lefties Bill Maher, Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters all agree that it’s perfectly OK for a comedian to mock Sarah Palin’s Down Syndrome child as “retarded”:

Maher mocked Palin’s special needs son by referring to him as “retarded” during a June 8 Las Vegas show…

Walters, who grew up with a special needs sister, said on June 17 on The View that she did not think Maher was “mean-spirited” when he referred to Palin’s son as “retarded.” Walters speculated that Maher did not know the word could be hurtful…even Walters’s in-studio audience was not buying this defense and was left silent…

Goldberg lamely tried to assist Walters, saying “we, society took the word ‘retarded’ and made it into something derogatory…When I was a kid, it wasn’t derogatory…” Video here.

I regret that I couldn’t find the exact original quote of Maher’s, but Walters and Goldberg clearly wanted to speak out in Maher’s favor: the camera flashed to an old family photo of Walters’ as she spoke, which means that Walters’ remarks were planned.

So, what’s the official standard? Is it still baaaaad to refer to anybody (whether mentally challenged or not) as “retarded” – with an exception for Republicans perhaps, or Sarah Palin’s children? On what grounds?

Lefties, please don’t try to say “Oh who cares, it’s only Bill Maher” – because it isn’t, now: it’s also Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters.



  1. Rule of Progressive Etiquette #1. There is no word so repugnant, no phrase so abominable, no insult so nasty that it can’t be flung at Sarah Palin or her children.

    Comment by V the K — June 19, 2013 @ 7:10 pm - June 19, 2013

  2. Goldberg lamely tried to assist Walters, saying “we, society took the word ‘retarded’ and made it into something derogatory…When I was a kid, it wasn’t derogatory…”


    I have no idea what constituted Whoopi’s culture parameters when she was a kid, but no one has ever used the word “retarded” as a benign and colorless form of identifying objective normalcy. “Retarded” actively identifies a condition of being abnormal.

    Because of the pejorative use of the slang epithet “retard” to infer a reserved seat on the short bus, “retarded” has joined the long list of politically incorrect words. Maher and Goldberg and especially Walters are stretching credulity beyond its limits by claiming an innocent and harmless use of the word.

    I can not imagine Walters introducing her sister as retarded in any sort of blithe manner.

    When one student expressing his views tells another student that his point is “retarded” he is not paying a compliment.

    Until Bill Maher can produce the evidence that he was objectively discussing retardation and Sarah Palin’s son came in as a logical subject, I will have to believe that the word was not used by Maher as a message of good will. I base that on what words Maher has used to describe Sarah Palin. I might also note that both Whoopi and Walters also have that same generic slang slot between their legs. I don’t recall Maher reducing either of them to a vagina.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 19, 2013 @ 7:14 pm - June 19, 2013

  3. Is Bastiat Fan reading this? It doesn’t matter if Palin is Democrat or Republican, her child is a human being and should be respected, especially considering he probably doesn’t know what’s going on and can’t stick up for himself.

    Maher knows better. He’s an ass.

    Comment by VS — June 19, 2013 @ 7:30 pm - June 19, 2013

  4. I love Whoopi and Barbara, but the double-standards they engage in are kind of gross.

    Comment by VS — June 19, 2013 @ 7:33 pm - June 19, 2013

  5. to infer a reserved seat on the short bus,
    It always amazed me that children who once rode the short bus are assumed to have mental problems. One of my sons rode the bus for a year for speech therapy. It was a great boost to him because at 4, he already learned that letters have sounds attached to them and began to read. He is currently in med school on a full ride scholarship, hoping to be a neurosurgeon. Riding the short bus didn’t hurt him.

    Comment by Louise B — June 19, 2013 @ 7:54 pm - June 19, 2013

  6. When someone says that third party X belongs on the short bus, it doesn’t raise my hackles because I don’t infer any insult to the kids on the short bus. The only insult, that I infer, is the one to third party X (that he very much doesn’t belong where he is now).

    I agree 100% that it’s incredibly low to mock people who can’t mock back.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 19, 2013 @ 8:10 pm - June 19, 2013

  7. Did Maher say “Trig Palin is re-TAR-ded” or “Trig Palin is a RE-tard”? Both are potentially quite offensive, but they’re not the same, any more than “Negro” and “n*gger” are the same, or “Chinaman” and “chink” are the same. Although in Maher’s case, I’m not sure which usage would be worse, come to think of it.

    To me, RE-tard is by its very nature a term of abuse and is always intended as such, while re-TAR-ded is an example of a once-respectable term that has fallen out of fashion, like “Negro” or “colored.” (Thus, the National Association for Retarded Citizens, founded in the early 1950s, now calls itself “ARC of America” in order to make the “R-word” less prominent.)

    So, Whoopi Goldberg is technically correct in the very limited sense that if a senior citizen who isn’t very media-savvy were to use the term “retarded”, one might give them a pass for it. Just as certain senior citizens might get a pass for referring to Ms. Goldberg as “a colored woman” — because once upon a time, “retarded” and “colored” were polite terms used in respectable society. (But an 80-year-old who says “RE-tard” or “n*gger” is less likely to be excused, unless he or she is in the grips of dementia, because those words have never been polite.)

    On the other hand, in Maher’s case, using “re-TAR-ded” is arguably worse than “RE-tard” — because media-savvy Maher knows perfectly well that “re-TAR-ded” is nowadays widely considered insensitive, despite the fact that it may persist as a “legacy usage” in the names of various groups advocating for the mentally disabled.

    So when someone like Maher says “Trig Palin is re-TAR-ded,” it’s as though a white Republican were to call Obama “our first Negro president,” while deliberately pronouncing it “NIG-grow” instead of “KNEE-grow” — and then disingenuously protesting that the word is still used by the United Negro College Fund, etc.

    Comment by Throbert McGee — June 19, 2013 @ 8:15 pm - June 19, 2013

  8. Louise B,

    “The short bus” has entered the vernacular as the special ride for “slow” kids. It may be offensive to some to mix some special needs kids other less acceptable special needs, but that is not the concern of the comedians.

    I have members of my immediate family who have and have had extensive speech therapy, suffer from autism and other societally branded “disorders.”

    The “short bus” vernacular has been set. Whether the comedians have it correct or not is another matter.

    I can understand your angst if Maher said your child is a retard because he rides the short bus. Maybe Whoopi and Walters could explain to you why Maher was not being mean.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 19, 2013 @ 8:25 pm - June 19, 2013

  9. Heliotrope, I think Maher was being mean, and he should be called on it–especially by Whoopi and Walters because they are on his side of the cultural divide. That they didn’t says more about them than him.

    Comment by Louise B — June 19, 2013 @ 8:42 pm - June 19, 2013

  10. Given the way that Bill Mahar refers to people, and given his cutting humor, and given that this was in the middle of a stand-up comedy routine, we’re *really* supposed to believe that it wasn’t meant in a derogatory way?

    Given Mahar’s past, we’re *seriously* supposed to buy into the idea that he meant it in a positive and uplifiting way?


    Comment by MzEllen — June 19, 2013 @ 8:46 pm - June 19, 2013

  11. The wikipedia entry on “Euphemism” has an interesting sub-section about the phenomenon of once-respectable terms like “retarded” becoming taboo:

    Euphemisms can also serve to recirculate words that have passed out of use because of negative connotation. The word lame [in the sense of “crippled in the feet or legs], having faded from the vernacular, was revitalized as a slang word generally meaning “not living up to expectations” or “boring.”
    In the early 1960s, Major League Baseball franchise owner and promoter Bill Veeck, who was missing part of a leg, argued against the then-favored euphemism handicapped, saying he preferred crippled because it was merely descriptive and did not carry connotations of limiting one’s capability the way handicapped (and all of its subsequent euphemisms) seemed to do

    Comment by Throbert McGee — June 19, 2013 @ 8:47 pm - June 19, 2013

  12. All of them are mentally challenged and just plain mean spirited.

    Comment by SC.Swampfox — June 19, 2013 @ 9:42 pm - June 19, 2013

  13. More name calling of a Republican:

    Her crimes? She’s black, pretty, and Harvard-educated.

    [Jeff adds: It’s easy to condemn the ill-advised name-calling of an obscure State Senate candidate, and I hereby do… while also noting the element of hand-waving. It got to be time to change the subject, eh?]

    Comment by VS — June 19, 2013 @ 11:10 pm - June 19, 2013

  14. Actually, ILC, you can point out that Vince Smetana and the Obama Party that he supports, endorses, and obeys unquestioningly have and endorse calling women with whom they disagree whores.

    That is the point. Leftists like Vince Smetana call women whores. They endorse calling women whores. They will continue to call women who disagree with them politically whores. It is what the Obama Party does, it is what the Obama Party endorses, and it is what the Obama Party believes.

    So this is yet another demand for a piety dance from a hypocrite. Indeed, since the woman involved is an Obama puppet who fully endorses calling OTHER women whores, she can choke on her own medicine.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — June 20, 2013 @ 12:24 am - June 20, 2013

  15. NDT, re: Alan Grayson’s fine example…. Well, that’s just it. Are we to widen the field here to every bad thing anyone ever said? That is the thrust of VS’ technique (even if his example is valid in itself). The result, if we widen the field endlessly, will be the loss of my post’s point. And I can’t help wondering if that is part of the intent.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 20, 2013 @ 12:56 am - June 20, 2013

  16. I can’t believe Whoopi ‘went there’ with respect to the old “when I was young, it wasn’t so” defense. I can remember when (okay, just barely) the term “negro” was commonly used to describe those of a certain skin tone. Even not too long ago, a particular personality simply repeated the meme of “Barack, The Magic Negro” and a firestorm of controversy ensued.

    If a person with a similar skin tone came up to her and said “Thank you for all you’ve done for the us in the negro community” would her response be something other than a glare which would express incredulity as to the whereabouts of the speaker for the past 40 years?

    Comment by RSG — June 20, 2013 @ 3:42 am - June 20, 2013

  17. Vince,

    We conservatives do not circle the wagons around our fools.

    Here is Iowahawk:

    The IL GOP needs to be dismantled and sold as a novelty clown opposition to a petit dictatorship in Eastern Europe

    Meanwhile, some little Illinois foolishness rises to the level of liberals looking the other way when Maxine Waters, Sheila Lee Jackson and Joe Biden attempt to “loquate.”

    The Illinois GOP bozo is getting a full dose from across the nation from average GOP Joe’s and Jane’s who find him reprehensible. However, there will be GOP moderates who warn about “eating our own.”

    If you gained satisfaction from this stupidity, congrats to you. May I suggest you watch Republican Chuck Hagel closely. He also drives a clown car. I think it is a Biden V-8.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 20, 2013 @ 9:32 am - June 20, 2013

  18. I generally like Maher, but his use of certain terms — the c-word and apparently now the r-word (particularly bad in reference to an innocent child) is inexcusable. (On the other hand, I had to laugh at the notion you propound that Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg occupy some exalted status in the liberal intellectual world — do you feel like Clint Eastwood’s or Tom Selleck’s every utterance should be taken as conservative gospel?)

    Comment by Brubeck — June 20, 2013 @ 3:40 pm - June 20, 2013

  19. …I had to laugh at the notion you propound that Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg occupy some exalted status in the liberal intellectual world — do you feel like Clint Eastwood’s or Tom Selleck’s every utterance should be taken as conservative gospel?

    Take five, dimwit.

    The esteemed (gag!) liberal ‘intellectuals’ whose words you worship would say nothing very different from what these two distaff windbags (and fat asses) spout five days a week on national television.
    As for Messieurs Eastwood and Selleck: they’re not in our faces Monday through Friday, 52 weeks a year, and being good, mature, conservative men they no doubt are aware that the world doesn’t hang on their every utterance on matters political, social, economic, etc.
    Add to that that each of these men individually has more intellectual heft than any two or three dozen leftist blowhards who make up a vastly disproportionate share of the mass media.
    As for Maher, the only thing he needs is to have his ass kicked up around his neck somewhere. Then civil society would be spared his vapid and excruciatingly unfunny utterances, any one of which could be trumped by the average 4th grade class clown.

    Comment by Jman1961 — June 20, 2013 @ 4:27 pm - June 20, 2013

  20. Someone let Dan Savage know it’s ok to call gay conservatives “House Faggots” as long as you can get Bahbwa WaWa to go on the view and say you’re not mean-spirited…

    Comment by Tim in MT — June 20, 2013 @ 5:22 pm - June 20, 2013

  21. Comment by Jman1961 — June 20, 2013 @ 4:27 pm – June 20, 2013

    Now that was a slap-down. Well done, Jman1961.

    Comment by SC.Swampfox — June 20, 2013 @ 5:38 pm - June 20, 2013

  22. Heh – Maybe Savage didn’t know that “faggot” is a term meant to hurt people, because it surely wasn’t a pejorative back when he was a little boy… 😉

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 20, 2013 @ 6:16 pm - June 20, 2013

  23. As for Maher, the only thing he needs is to have his ass kicked up around his neck somewhere.

    That, and a rather substantive sexual harassment lawsuit or lawsuits (preferably involving pharmaceutical incapacitation).

    Seriously, what is it with the indifference libs have towards misogynists in their own ranks?

    Comment by RSG — June 20, 2013 @ 6:30 pm - June 20, 2013

  24. #18 — I think a lot of people out in TV-land think of Baba Wawa as America’s Mother. She’s the matronly authority figure, who scolds us when we’re rude.

    I’m almost as matronly as she is, and I remember the whole “Baba Wawa” flap back in the Seventies. Gilda Radner did some sketches on Saturday Night Live poking fun at America’s Mother (which she already was back then). She was pilloried for daring to joke about such a stately figure! Radner was ashamed even to meet her.

    I was in my early teens back then, so I know how a generation was conditioned to think of Barbara Walters that way. But I can’t get “Baba Wawa” completely out of my mind. So though one half of me understands the image she’s cultivated, the other can’t help giggling every time she opens her mouth.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 20, 2013 @ 6:41 pm - June 20, 2013

  25. Lori, I was just out of college when Saturday Night Live started. Back then it was the cutting edge of comedy of my generation. I found it funny. Today it is too partisan for my taste. Walters did break the glass ceiling for women in the news industry. But, even when she broke it, she was just a co-anchor. Today the news industry is filled with women of all stripes, left, right and even lesbians.

    Comment by SC.Swampfox — June 20, 2013 @ 7:27 pm - June 20, 2013

  26. Seriously, what is it with the indifference libs have towards misogynists in their own ranks?

    Comment by RSG — June 20, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

    Why stop with the women haters?

    You can also ask this question: What is it with the indifference libs have towards greedy people, rapists, racists, homophobes, Jew haters, socialists, fascists, communists, tyrants, etc., etc., in their own ranks?

    And the answer is: these are things that they are, that they know (or suspect) that they are, and they seek to avoid this unpleasant reality by always accusing others of harboring the character defects which they possess. This is called projection.

    The indifference is borne of something else that the collectivist left is well known for…tribalism. Or herd mentality, if you prefer.

    Comment by Jman1961 — June 20, 2013 @ 7:32 pm - June 20, 2013

  27. Why are we paying attention to Whoopi?

    Back when Roman Polanski was arrested in Zurich for his rape of a child, Whoopi told us that it was no big deal since it wasn’t “rape rape”.

    If we apply the Todd Akin standard, she should be condemned and shunned forevermore.

    Barbara Walters is long past her sell-by date.

    Maher is simply loathsome. He can’t help himself.

    Comment by KCRob (SoCalRobert) — June 20, 2013 @ 9:59 pm - June 20, 2013

  28. […] week, I posted on Barbara Walters’ and Whoopie Goldberg’s bizarre defense of Bill Maher, who had apparently called out Sarah Palin’s Down Syndrome child as “retarded”. A […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Rep. Winkler: It’s Okay to say “Uncle Tom” — June 26, 2013 @ 2:44 pm - June 26, 2013

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