Kamala Harris apologizes for response to disability slur after backlash
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris came under fire over the weekend for her response to a man who used a slur offensive to disabled people to refer to the president during a speaking event.
The audience member at a New Hampshire speaking event asked Harris how she would work to “diminish” President Donald Trump’s actions, which he described using a derogatory word typically used to refer to intellectually disabled people.
As the crowd laughed, Harris chuckled and responded “Well said. Well said.”
Harris later said when questioned by reporters that she did not “process” the remark in the moment, but was upset to learn about it after the event. USA TODAY has decided against repeating the slur.
Harris, D-Calif., apologized, saying “It’s offensive, and you would think that in the year 2019, people would have a much better understanding of how hurtful a term like that can be.”
Many pointed out that Harris seemed to condone what is considered an ableist slur because it is used to discriminate against intellectually disabled people
The R-word has been the subject of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, which started in 2009 to raise awareness about “a particularly powerful form of exclusion” that has long been used to stigmatize those with intellectual disabilities.
In her response, Harris also said that she has released policy proposals regarding disability in her campaign for president: “I have worked my entire career to do a number of things, including ensure that our disability community receives the dignity and the rights that they deserve.”
“Kamala believes in an America that is fully accessible and inclusive for everyone and her administration will fight to make this a reality across all parts of our society,” Harris wrote in a Medium post outlining her proposals.
She has proposed expanding economic opportunity by using grants to help employ disabled people and requiring public funding grantees to comply with the American Disabilities Act before receiving funding. She also proposed expanding funding for special education.
But Harris has also been recently condemned for making the remark at CNN’s climate change presidential forum that plastic straws should be banned. Activists note that plastic straws are a vital resource for many disabled people.
“I would never condone anyone using that word in any way, shape or form, even including against the guy that I’m running against, period. Period. Period,” Harris said of her reaction.