Saturday, February 20, 2010

Selective Outrage

I suppose it would be impolite to say that Sarah Palin is exploiting her son Trig and the fact that he has Down syndrome, but if the last couple of weeks are any guide, it’s hard not to conclude that she and her family at least treat him as a part of her political entourage. As such, then, it makes it a little delicate when you get huffy over Rahm Emanuel’s intemperate (and stupid) use of the term “retard” but brush off Rush Limbaugh’s repeated use of the same word. It makes it seem as if Trig is nothing more than just a prop.

This came up again last week on an episode of the TV show Family Guy (which I’ve never seen). Ms. Palin objected to a character named Ellen who has Down syndrome and said, at one point, “my mother is the former governor of Alaska.”

Though the joke was more or less in keeping with the offend-everyone spirit of “Family Guy” and its 36-year-old creator, Seth MacFarlane, it quickly drew the disapproval of Ms. Palin.

In a message that she posted on Facebook on Monday, Ms. Palin interpreted the gag as a swipe at her son Trig. She wrote that the “Family Guy” episode “felt like another kick in the gut,” and invited her daughter Bristol to comment on the show as well.

In her response, Bristol Palin wrote that “insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent. People with special needs face challenges that many of us will never confront, and yet they are some of the kindest and most loving people you’ll ever meet.”

She added, “If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks.”

That drew a response from the actor, Andrea Fay Friedman, who provided the voice for Ellen, and who also has Down syndrome.

In an e-mail message sent to The New York Times, Ms. Friedman wrote, “I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor.” She added that in her family, “we think laughing is good,” and that she was raised by her parents “to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life.”

Ms. Friedman continued, “My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.”

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Ms. Friedman, who has also appeared in television shows like “Life Goes On” and “Saving Grace,” said she was perplexed by Ms. Palin’s criticism.

“I’m like, ‘I’m not Trig. This is my life,’ ” Ms. Friedman said. “I was making fun of Sarah Palin, but not her son.”

Using a someone else — Down syndrome or not — as a weapon and a shield is what heartless jerks do, and it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that Sarah Palin’s selective outrage doesn’t fall into that category.

PS: Digby points out that the folks at CPAC think it’s perfectly okay to make fun of Tiger Woods and his marital problems or the guy who flew a plane into the IRS in Austin. “Just don’t call them retards.”