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Mr. Roddey, Check Your Language

Allegheny County’s GOP chair, Jim Roddey, joked Tuesday that Obama supporters are “mentally retarded.” Here’s why the joke isn’t funny.

I heard something disappointing on Tuesday night.

On Tuesday, Allegheny County’s GOP chair and former county executive Jim Roddey, an Oakmont resident, served as emcee at the election night party for state Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler. Vulakovich won the special election to fill the seat of convicted state Sen. Jane Orie.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday on Roddey’s speech, during which he fed the audience this anecdote as a joke:

“There was a disappointment tonight. I was very embarrassed. I was in this parking lot and there was a man looking for a space to park, and I found a space for him. And I felt badly—he looked like he was sort of in distress. And I said, ‘Sir, here’s a place.’ And he said, ‘That’s a handicapped space.’ I said, ‘Oh I’m so sorry, I saw that Obama sticker and I thought you were mentally retarded.'”

Mr. Roddey, I encourage you to check your language, and to take a moment to think about all of the people—Democrats and Republicans alike—that your poorly thought out joke might have offended.

It’s an election year and, as per the norm, political ads are becoming numerous and nasty, and jokes are flying from both sides. If you’re going to attack the candidates, that’s one thing.

But don’t attack their supporters.

For the individuals, as well as the families, teachers and caregivers who wake up every day and stare true mental disability in the face, this is not a joke. This is a statement that is offensive to an entire group of Americans—some of whom probably are Obama supporters, and plenty of others who probably are supporting Romney.

What kind of message does this send to voters? Is it now perfectly acceptable for local leaders to make jokes at the expense of constituents? I certainly hope not.

Mr. Roddey, there was a disappointment tonight. I was very embarrassed. The GOP chair of my county tried to pass off an incredibly offensive remark as a joke. And it is my most sincere hope that other political leaders do not stoop to this lowest form of comedy.

Editor's Note: On Wednesday, after the publication of this column on Dormont-Brookline Patch, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published this article, which recounts Roddey's apology for his comment.

Drew Lehman August 08, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Get ready because all of the Obama haters out there are going to say "hey what about what Bill Maher said about Sarah Palin..." Instead of owning this ridiculous comment by Jim Roddey who proves that money can't buy you class. What an incredibly stupid thing to say, and whats worse is it wasn't spontaneous it was rehearsed.
Erin Faulk August 08, 2012 at 07:48 PM
The problem I see with Roddey's comment is that it is offensive beyond political affiliation. Obama supporters aren't the butt of this joke—those coping with mental disability are. It's disappointing that any respected local or political leader would think it's appropriate to make a comment of this nature—in any setting.
Erin Faulk August 08, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Roddey has issued an apology statement, per this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: http://earlyreturns.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/early-returns-20/53-post-gazette-staff/4642-roddey-apologizes-for-qretardedq-remark
Ed Adams August 08, 2012 at 08:02 PM
there's a joke here, but it wasn't his language - he should look in the mirror for a big laff...
Ed Adams August 08, 2012 at 08:04 PM
erin is correct, political persuasion aside, this couldn't be more insensitive
Drew Lehman August 08, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Totally agree Erin, I was just pointing out past practice (see Rush Limbaugh).
Heidi Dezayas August 08, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Agreed, Erin. There's a worldwide movement to end the use of the word "retarded" in a derogatory manner. I wrote a column about it earlier this year, and it's cases like this that really emphasize why it's so important to spread awareness about the issue. For anyone who is interested in reading more: http://patch.com/A-rwZD
Erin Faulk August 08, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Thanks for sharing, Heidi! That is a great column: http://patch.com/A-rwZD
Alex Vallas August 09, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Very disgusting comment. There is so much ugliness in this year's election process with the PACS and candidates trying to outdo each other with lies, distortions, insults and completely class behavior. Insofar as the national GOP, are there any more disgusting indiviudals than Michele Bachmann and Allen West who want to return to the days of McCarthyism. They are looking for Islamic terrorist and communists in government while displaying ignorance and prejudice on numerous levels.
Alex Vallas August 09, 2012 at 11:27 AM
meant to type classless behavior
Lois Vitti August 09, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I am appalled and embarrassed at the ignorance of Mr. Roddy's comments.
Julie Blust August 09, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Great piece Erin and you are right, it's worse that it was part of a rehearsed, deliberate speech. Who did he run this speech by beforehand, Tosh.0?

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