All day Friday the newspapers, TV stations, radio, and the Internet were abuzz with Barack Obama's failed joke about the Special Olympics Thursday night on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. In shades of John Kerry's failed joke about the unschooled being "stuck in Iraq," the president's apologists said he was merely joking and didn't mean to say anything disparaging about people with developmental challenges. Still, the incident stirred passionate discussion all day Friday. At least it did for everyone but The New York Times's Helene Cooper. Cooper seemed not to even realize it happened if her review of the show is any indication.
One has to wonder, with the entire country talking about Obama's Special Olympics quip, how did Cooper miss that part of the story? Why would she not even make a passing notation of the controversy the joke caused?
Now, I have made myself a bit of a target elsewhere by saying that I don't think the remark was an indication that President Obama routinely makes fun of the mentally challenged or in any way hates, disdains, or discounts folks involved with the Special Olympics. I think he was making a joke about himself not them. To me, it's an incident to make note of and then move on from not one to hang opposition upon.
Was it impolitic? Yes. Impolite? Certainly. Just plain stupid? You betcha. But what ever it was and whatever my own opinion of it, it was news and for Cooper in The New York Times not to mention it even in passing, well, that is just a dereliction of duty.
So, why did Cooper not even mention this incident? She talked about every other aspect of Obama's appearance. Why leave out just that one little thing, the one thing that caused Obama to look bad to millions of Americans?
Since Cooper didn't seem to catch the segment, here is what happened. ABC reported that Obama brought up the Special Olympics when discussing his bowling score.
Towards the end of his approximately 40-minute appearance, the president talked about how he's gotten better at bowling and has been practicing in the White House bowling alley.
He bowled a 129, the president said.
"That's very good, Mr. President," Leno said sarcastically.
It's "like the Special Olympics or something," the president said.
As most of you reading this now know, Obama's office quickly tried to put out the fire by releasing an apology immediately on Friday.
"The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. "He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world."
With all this stirring the pot on Friday, it is just awfully strange that the Times piece didn't mention the whole swirling controversy. Not a word. Nothing.
Awfully strange, indeed.