The scene at the White House on Friday should have been one of celebration and positivity — a time to honor Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Instead, it quickly became one of derogatory rhetoric and confusion.
“What happened with the Paralympics was so incredible and so inspiring to me,” President Donald Trump said during the ceremony, surrounded by members of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “And I watched — it’s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could.”
Trump’s words reflects an ever-growing troubling pattern of treatment toward the disability community. People with disabilities are often dismissed, devalued and discriminated against, even though progress has been made over the years to change society’s perception.
And, in 2018, perhaps there’s no greater offender than the President himself.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for the backlash to the President’s remarks to begin, with everyone from actress Minnie Driver, star of ABC’s “Speechless,” to athletes themselves voicing their disgust and disappointment.
The Paralympics responded as well the next day, tweeting: “Record numbers around the world are not finding @Paralympics tough to watch. Billions of viewers now take in the Paralympics in hundreds of countries around the world. We hope the US President continues to watch and be inspired by the Paralympics.”
Still some, like The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, were quick to dismiss Trump’s statement as “innocuous” and merely referring to time constraints placed on the President.
Honestly, that explanation seems far more unlikely, especially when you consider Trump’s fondness for watching television and his past behavior toward people with disabilities. It’s an explanation that’s too simple and too neat.
To be sure, the Paralympic Games were considerably shorter than the Olympics (94 hours and 176 hours, respectively), and, yes, Trump is arguably a very busy man. But surely he could skip a round on the golf course to support the fine athletes of Team USA. And, if his time constraints really did prevent him from watching, then wouldn’t those same constraints apply to the Olympics, making them “tough to watch” as well? Why single out the Paralympic team?