Video: Obama Apologizes for Calling His Bad Bowling ‘Like the Special Olympics’


obama1[Video below.] His controversial joke hadn’t even aired yet when President Obama got on the phone from Air Force One last night to apologize for comparing his notoriously bad bowling skills to the Special Olympics. “He expressed his disappointment and he apologized, I think in a way that was very moving,” Tim Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics board, told “Good Morning America” today. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population, certainly didn’t want to embarrass or give anybody any more reason for pain or just suffering I would say,” said Shriver, who received the call from Obama as the president was flying back to Washington.”He was very sincere, expressed an interest and an openness in being more engaged in the movement and said he was a fan of the movement and I think importantly he said he was ready to have some of our athletes over to the White House to bowl or play basketball or help him improve his score.”

It began with the president joking about how bad a bowler he is.

Toward the end of his approximately 40-minute taping on the “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Obama talked about how he’d gotten better at bowling and had been practicing in the White House bowling alley.

“I bowled a 129,” he told Leno.

“That’s very good, Mr. President,” Leno said sarcastically.

But then came the foot-in-mouth moment: “It’s like the Special Olympics or something,” the president said.

Shriver told “GMA” that these moments can worsen the stereotypes of people with special needs.

“I think it’s important to see that words hurt, and words do matter and these words can in some way be seen as humiliating or [a] put-down to people with special needs. [They] do cause pain and they do result in stereotypes and they do result in behavior that’s neglectful and almost oppressive moment of people with special needs,” Shriver said.

“This kind of language needs to be a teachable moment for our country, I think. I would hope every parent that’s at home this morning watching this show could turn to their children and say, ‘This is a chance for us to recognize that when we talk about Special Olympics, when we talk about people with special needs, let’s make sure we talk about it in an affirming way,” he said.

Shriver said there is someone who might be able to help the president with his bowling: a special Olympian in the Detroit area who has bowled three perfect games.

The president called even before the show had aired, knowing that his words could open a controversy on a whole new front.

The White House released a statement shortly after the gaffe last night to clarify the president’s comments and said Obama did not mean to offend.

“The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics. He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world,” said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

The Special Olympics wasn’t the only controversy to dog Obama on his West Coast trip.

Despite being 3,000 miles away from the center of the AIG controversy, the president could not escape the heat coming from the furor over fat bonuses paid to executives of the bailed-out insurance giant.

“Stunned. Stunned is the word,” said the president on his two-day campaign-style swing through California.

“The immediate bonuses that went to AIG are a problem, but the larger problem is we got to get back to an attitude where people know enough is enough,” Obama said. “And people have a sense of responsibility and they understand their actions are going to have an impact on everybody.”

He also touted his $3.6 trillion budget and advised Congress to find a permanent fix so that such scandals are avoidable in the future.

“I understand Congress’ frustrations, and they’re responding to, I think, everybody’s anger. But I think that the best way to handle this is to make sure that you’ve closed the door before the horse gets out of the barn. And what happened here was the money has already gone out and people are scrambling to try to find ways to get back at them,” he said.

Before his Special Olympics crack, the president was criticized for being in California for an entertainment show and not minding the store.

“He flies off to Los Angeles to be on the ‘Jay Leno’ show. My suggestion is he come back, since he’s taken the full responsibility” for the AIG controversy, “to get his people together and say, ‘All right, I want to know exactly what happened and who did what when and how are we going to prevent this from ever happening the future,'” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

To view a video of Obama’s comments, click below:

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{ABC News Ventures/ Newscenter}


  1. Being disabled, I don’t feel slighted in the least. Disabled people do worse than “regular” people. Vos iz der problem?

  2. Charles R. Darwin- fake alias, for a sillycomment. Your not disabled! and if you’d be than you’d surely take offense for a president of your country, the highest- most powerful man, basically calling you garbage. Why hide under the “disabled” guise and an alias of Darwin! Pathetic.

  3. Actually, Sam, I am disabled, and I am slighted by your comment. It was a rather gauche thing for Obama to do, and I definitely see how it can incite rage, but I have come to terms with my disability, and I, being of sane mind, fully comprehend the limits of Special Olympians. Obama did not call us “garbage.” It is like saying that a guy who limps is “like someone who had a broken leg.” Are you insulting everyone who has broken legs? I think not.