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.