John Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Athlete, Pens Open Letter To Ann Coulter Over 'Retard' Remark

Special Olympics Athlete Writes Open Letter To Ann Coulter Over 'Retard' Remark

Ann Coulter made waves when she called President Barack Obama a "retard" in a tweet after the presidential debate on Monday night. And on Tuesday, she used the word "retarded" in another tweet in which she scolded Obama for poking fun at cancer with the phrase "Stage 3 Romnesia."

While Coulter's remarks were deemed "offensive and disrespectful" by many, Special Olympics athlete John Franklin Stephens decided to reach out to the conservative pundit with some kind and thought-provoking words.

Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete and global messenger, is a 30-year-old Virginia man with Down syndrome. He took to a Special Olympics blog to write an open letter to Coulter regarding her offensive tweet.

"Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?" Stephens begins. "I’m a 30 year old [sic] man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night."

Stephens goes on to ask Coulter if by "retard" she meant someone who was bullied as a child and rose above it; someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful with his words; or "someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift."

"Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor," he writes. "No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much."

Stephens finishes his letter to Coulter by inviting her to join him at the Special Olympics one day, to "see if you can walk away with your heart unchanged." He signs it, "A friend you haven't met yet."

The touching letter has received a strong response from readers.

"The full letter is well worth reading, if only as a break from the unceasing negativity of the campaign season. Well done, Mr. Stephens," Yahoo! Sports journalist Jay Busbee wrote. "Nice job of taking the kind of positive, open-arms approach that's unthinkable to so many in public life these days."

This is not the first time the Special Olympics athlete has spoken out against the use of the "R-word." In 2008, Stephens penned a piece for the Denver Post describing the hurt he feels when people use the word "retard." He said it makes him, and others like him, feel wholly excluded.

"I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone," Stephens previously wrote. "Nothing scares me as much as feeling all alone in a world that moves so much faster than I do."

[h/t Fark for the find.]

Click through the slideshow below to read Twitter's response to Ann Coulter's offensive remark.


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