John Franklin Stephens

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics.  See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven’t made yet,
John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger
Special Olympics Virginia

EDITOR’S NOTE: John has previously written powerful opinion pieces on the R-word. Read one here.

6,801 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

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  7. Why couldn’t Ann Coulter simply have swallowed big and apologized for even uttering such an inflammatory term? Her response on the Piers Morgn Show only served to expose her further.

    • Why? Because demonizing the humanity of their ideological opponents, is the very MO of Leftism since the Bolsheviks, at least. It is their main and most effective weapon. And fighting Leftism itself is her main opponent, career and purpose in life it seems.

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    • Yes, it is quite mean to project an ugly presupposition of another’s motives (and immature). She was obviously trying to insult someone who was bullying and condescending a friend of hers. Unfortunately she used a word that is both a colloquial insult and and medical description. It is convenient for people like yourself, to imply that she meant the latter and not the former. It is also mean and yes, disingenuous. For Bush was called that word repeatedly during his eight years, and these same *outraged* leftists said not a word, except often the word itself.

  9. Thank you John for opening my eyes and my heart.I am 85 years old and untill I read your letter I had the wrong impression of people like yourself and others in Special Olympics.Thanks again.

  10. I think you are amazing. You wrote that piece very nicely. I always like helping the people who get bullied feel better. I haven’t done much yet but I really want to. When you help someone else feel good, it also feels that way to you. I am very happy you stood up for yourself and you stood up against bullying. Bullying is one of the world’s worst problems right now. I mean really, every day people die from bullying because people hurt them so much that they don’t want to live anymore. I’m happy that you didn’t let anything get you down from the R-word. It is a very hurtful word, but you stood up to the people who said it to you. You are a hero and I hope you know it. You are truly amazing for standing up for yourself!

    • Kiki, you wrote:
      ” I always like helping the people who get bullied feel better.”

      Ironically, this is *exactly* what Ann was doing.
      Her candidate and personal friend was being bullied and condescended to, when she wrote that against the perceived bully. (Watch it yourself, it’s quite obvious)

      The R word is not just a medical description but a colloquial insult, which became more popularly used in the past decade because of how often it was used to describe President Bush.

  11. Best response possible, made me laugh and cry and get angry all at once. If she did not feel moved by that she is not human. Just brilliant and inspirational.

  12. JFS,
    On CNN, Ms. Coulter intelligently defended her use of the word and corrected your wrong assumption that she was trying to link the President to “people like you”. However, I think your letter has a point and a message that needs to get out. The problem is you set your sights too small by attacking Ms. Coulter.

    If you really do want to attack the public’s perception of people with intellectual disabilities, why not write an open letter to the person with the largest voice in this country. He can assist you the most as a Global Messenger of people having disabilities. I am talking about President Obama. As you know, he made a specific derogatory reference to the Special Olympics while on the David Letterman show. I understand that he has since apologized for that comment.

    May I suggest you write an open letter to him. First, thank him for his apology. Then, point out that if the President of the United States could say such a thing, it is indeed a problem in which we all could become more aware. I would encourage you to keep the focus on awareness and not be critical of any one person – for we all are guilty of being insensitive at times.

    I would also suggest that you go on the Letterman Show and read the letter and discuss this topic. Go to the place where the offense occurred. Be positive about the President’s response and apology.

    You have a great opportunity before you to get your message out. Doing this before the election will create the largest platform for your message and provide your message the greatest awareness. Just be sure to thank the President for his apology. You can complement him and still get the largest platform for your message than you will ever have again. I may also suggest that while on the Letterman show you challenge him and possibly David Letterman to a game of bowling. The President seems to be a gracious man and would probably appreciate that.

    I wish you the best. Always be fair, honest and courageous.


  13. John, after reading your letter and several comments made, I realized that my heart aches in sorrow for those who do not have any idea of the joy a person with Down Syndrome can bring. I had that joy in my sister, who was 5 years old in 1938 when I was born. My parents said she told them over and over, “I’m going to take care of my baby sister”. And that she did. Or, at least until I got old enough to be tired of her telling me what to do, as any “little sister” would eventually do. She went to a private school in the home of a retired school teacher because the public school system did not have to let her attend – and they didn’t. There we all found some new friends and I even got to participate in holiday skits they performed. And there she learned many things and when I had to learn the states and capitals, SHE taught them to me! She loved everyone and everyone she knew loved her. When I was a young teen, if I went to a movie with friends it was understood that she got to go too. That did not go over well with me – after all, she was just my sister. But my friends thought it was GREAT! That didn’t make me too happy either. In other words, normal sibling rivalry, as I finally realized after some years of feeling guilt. She was also a large influence in the lives of my children, who accepted her simply as their aunt and learned as they grew older to understand why this older person enjoyed playing games with them. As I said, I think I must feel some sympathy for Ann Coulter because she is able to use the R word without considering it’s implication. She has missed out on the joy of discovery. And by the way, my sister’s name was Ann.

  14. Ann Coulter is an idiot. Her extreme rants are just a pathetic attempt to get some media attention. Whenever I see her do something like this, or putting down someone else, all I can hear in the background is “Look at ME.. Look at ME.. I’m Important.. PLEASE.. For HEAVEN’S SAKE.. LOOK AT ME..!!”

    • You wrote:
      “Ann Coulter is an idiot.”

      There was a time when the word idiot was not just a colloquial insult, but also a medical description. Today, the word re**rd is both a colloquial insult and descriptive of a medical condition. You’ve literally done the exact same thing Anne did, and don’t even know it. Lol.

      • Actually, if he had “literally done the exact same thing” then he would have used the R word to describe the President, otherwise it is not the exact same thing, literally or not….. Not that I am one of those people who dislikes the misuse of the word “literally”

      • Literally’, as in literally the same, morally. I thought that’s what we were talking about? Yet the argument mostly here, seems to be that she is *literally* an indecent person, Not that she’s a decent person who’d done something indecent; she is inherently bad. Why? Because of using a colloquial insult, to stand up against a bully for a friend; a word which is also a descriptive, medical term.
        Again, I agree I wish it were not both and insult and a medical term, but remember, the insult aspect of it in our culture, has gotten more prevalent in the last decade because of how often it was used to describe our past President.

      • Is the word a colloquial insult? You know I heard it was a colloquial insult. Did you know it was a colloquial insult. I hope you can further educate everyone who posts a comment about this article about that colloquial insult…..(here comes a reply with a colloquial insult)

      • No Brad, you missed the point. It is *both* a colloquial insult *and* a descriptive, medical term; unfortunately.
        Remember, it being a colloquial insult has become *more* prevalent in our cultural ether, after the word was used so often and consistently to insult the last President for eight+ years.
        Pay attention! 😉

  15. Re: Bush- yes, I did that too. During that time I wasn’t really thinking about advocacy and how words could really hurt people. I wasn’t all that aware of how offensive certain words could be. It’s only in the last few years that I have really paid attention to it.

  16. that last comment was a general question and not directed at anyone in particular.
    There should be no room for flame attacks on this issue. We all need to focus on the issue at hand: speaking out against Ann Coulter’s use of the r-word in the manner she did…….we must use it to make a statement and hit her in the wallet.

  17. I am pretty sure that she wasn’t using the word with the intent to deliberately belittle those with ACTUAL physical and or mental handicaps. As almost… ignorant as it seems, for someone of her fame and stature, to make a PUBLIC statement using a word that’s sure to inflame a certain advocacy group, I really don’t think that she intended to OFFEND that particular group. She just obviously wasn’t thinking. Which is kind of ironic, given that she is, in a sense, guilty of the same thing that she’s accused him of.

    Her intent, in my opinion, was obviously to inflict whatever menial amount of damage she could to Obama. And she’s failed. Badly.

    She’s like Glenn Beck… you have to kind of be some kind of fringe-lunatic to actually subscribe to the beliefs she espouts. The only difference is that Glenn Beck has actually built an extremely lucrative empire from that chalkboard-foundation-and-crying thing he’s got going on.

    I’ve never met anybody, on the right or left, that really liked her opinions. She’s there for the FRINGE, and nothing else.

    • She’s one of the top five most successful political commentators, satirists and historical authors of the past thirty years. Your attempt to diminish and dismiss this person is nonsense, as anyone who’s familiar with her and her work knows.

      • She would sincerely think that you don’t, or you are ignorant of leftist policies and ideas (which is what she fights) hurt and have hurt so many people. She would wonder why you emotionally, understandably, feel for the disabled person who felt demeaned by that word, but support the ideology and powers that be, which encourage to outright run the abortion mills and thought in this country, which could have otherwise decent woman killing 90+% of their Downs Kids unborn babies. In your condemnation and judgement against Anne and I, Harriet, you may have emotion on your side, sincerely, but you do not have truth.

      • If by success you mean treating people with total disrespect and basically acting like a first class bitch, I don’t think successful is what most people would associate her with.

      • Lol, the fact that the ideological side she opposes, focuses intently and incessantly on anything questionable she says, does not dismiss the moral capital she’s built from the other 99.9% of things she says and does. (It’s like dismissing Shakespeare for his somewhat less enlightened and even questionable works. This is not logical.) In other words, yes, she wasn’t perfect in using the colloquial insult which is also a medical descriptive (hopefully a now dying colloquial insult., but one which was quite separated in thought/feeling, from it’s medical descriptive, for many years and of her generation…by the way.) but she has *so* much capital in her moral bank account, in fighting the Left or those that do the *most* genuine harm to Downs Kids, that she is able to make this withdrawal, or she should be given a pass.

        The reason, I suspect, you will not forgive or empathise, is because your leftism is more important to you than truth itself.

      • japesmcfarland, really????? Every time she opens her mouth is to offend someone. She is very annoying and many times she does not sound too smart.

      • Yet your opinion is loosely based, at best, since, for the most part, formed or shaped for you by those who hate her. How can I say this? Well, from my perspective, I’ve read some of her best selling work, heard countless praise of her brilliant insights about our culture and recent modern history, from countless people I respect (Like Dennis Prager for example) and her scathing exposures of the Left’s numerous ’emperors without clothes’ scenarios and memes; which are not just bad because untrue, but because of the *harm* these policies and bad ideas have caused other, real people. The Left is heartless, and so to fight the Left is good. That *is* what she does (fight the Left) and so you attempting to caller “not good”, is not only incorrect, but reveals that you are, basically, in ideology, of the secular, statist, bureaucratic collectivist Left.

      • Historical author ? There is a great clip of her arguing with a Canadian journalist ,trying to insist that Canada joined the U.S. in the Vietnam war. She is a one trick pony, using provocative statements to get publicity.

      • Wrong. For example, she pretty much single-handedly wrecked the common assumptions in the cultural ether about Sen. Joe McCarthy and Communism’s influence on America during his time. (ie. I grew up thinking McCarthy was paranoid nut, as this was what we were taught. It turns out there were far more than a few dedicated, Communist influences all throughout our society and including Hollywood. Or, did you know that the guy who shot Kennedy was a card carrying Communist? Why do you think the MSM immediately started blaming Texas racism instead? Do you ever ask yourselves these questions?


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  19. Very well put. Unfortunately a lot of the democrat-leaning posters are more than happy to support abortion laws that would make her comment moot. So before criticizing this woman an ignorant hypocrite – which she undoubtedly is – examine your own attitudes first.

    • The mere fact that abortion is legal does not mean everyone would have an abortion. I bet you have one of those “Rejoice! Your mom was not pro-choice” bumper stickers on your car. My mom was, and so am I.

  20. John,

    The eloquence and grace within your words are clearly more than someone with such a lack of decorum as Ann Coulter deserves. She brings new meaning to the word “clueless”. The fact that a person who is supposed to be civilized and intelligent couldn’t find another term to describe her disrespect for our President is a humiliation and an embarrassment to civilized and intelligent people everywhere. God Bless You for the shining example that you have presented. You are an inspiration and a true American hero!


  21. John Franklin Stephens it takes a great man to be able to say the things that you say in behalf of the community for people with special needs. We hope that you will stay to be an inspiration and messenger of hope to those who need to be more understanding of the challenges people with special needs face everyday of their life.

    • Nice language. Because that’s respectful too of course…. Hypocrisy is deciding that the other people are wrong, but that we are justified in whatever we say or do. Stop pretending to be offended at the “r” word when you will print the “f” word in the public domain from the safety of anonymity. No doubt you think Tosh.o is funny and not offensive in any way… and you probably say “pimp” like it’s a funny adjective. Talk about offensive…

      • Yeah, pretty fucking offensive, Kendrick. Come on.

        Oh and Don, why don’t you leave your pretentious little bubble and join the real world with the rest of us. Tosh.0 is funny and “pimp” is part of modern vocabulary. Deal with it.

      • Well, then, Nick, so is the “r” word also part of “modern vocabulary,” as you call it. Give me two good reasons why that word is unacceptable but “pimp” is perfectly fine.

        Do you know what a pimp really is? If you were to read an essay equivalent to to Mr. Stephens, but from a young girl who had been sex-trafficked by a pimp, or a witness thereof, had her entire youth stolen and exploited by sexual deviants (example: read “Renting Lacey” by Linda Smith), you would be hard-pressed to say pimp is a harmless word. And if you are open-minded, you would be as offended about it as you are about the ‘r’ word.

        A pimp is a modern day slaveholder. They deal in human flesh. They profit off the suffering, dehumanization, and exploitation of young girls (and boys in some cases).

        So don’t give me your “part of modern vocabulary mantra” regarding pimp, but oh, for some reason that same reasoning doesn’t apply to the “r” word.

        I see ZERO difference. You only see a difference because you’re part of what I call the “religious left.” That means you decide what you think is right and wrong, but have no actual basis for it, yet you then hold everyone else to that standard and judge people for failing to live up to it. Same thing the religious right does, except they didn’t make up the basis themselves (in some cases).

      • I hadn’t thought of it that way., thanks. I won’t be using the P word carelessly again. Words are powerful, and should be, and I think we can all agree on that.

  22. using derogatory remarks is not acceptable ,no matter who you are. politics seem to bring out the worst in some people. whatever your ideology, it’s alright, thats what makes the world go round, so if you can’t disagree without the abusive language, i suggest you button it.

  23. Too bad… People still trying start fights and slinging personal attacks at each other. It was nice to go elsewhere and experience some Japes-free civility and decency. Just checking back in to remind people that there are multiple anti-ann coulter petitions popping up at change.org so if you want your voices to be heard in a more productive way go support one or all of them! Thank you to all the rational and compassionate people out there who have taken a page from John Franklin Stephen’s book and make sure to have a pleasant evening.

    • You wrote:
      ” It was nice to go elsewhere and experience some Japes-free civility and decency.”

      Well, this is implying I’ve been uncivil to you. Clearly I haven’t, so it is uncivil of you to suggest it, especially publicly.
      Oh also, by the way, you haven’t responded with reason, sense or logic to any of the substantive points and challenges I’ve shared.

      • Actually Japes you’ve repeatedly been uncivil to me and several others. I didn’t appreciate the way you insinuated that I had used the r-word or made fun of individuals with downs syndrome. You’ve turned this message board into a place for you to regurgitate the same narrow-minded blanket statements over and over again. Then you attack anyone who may have a different opinion than you with ugly assumptions and flawed logic. At first I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt because you seemed somewhat thoughtful and well spoken if not a little misguided. However after coming across numerous posts from you I was able to get a much clearer idea of what kind of person you really are by paying attention to they way you expect to be treated after abusing others. I’m not going to get into specifics because I don’t want to speak for them but it was informative.

        After many people (including myself) have asked that we keep this place focused on John Franklin Stephens and the special needs community you continue to rattle off your anti-liberal tirades with a smug sense of superiority that is dripping with disrespect. If you feel the need to keep coughing up Rush Limbaugh flavored hairballs why can’t you do it elsewhere? The fact that you have ignored every plea for civility is deeply disturbing because you obviously don’t understand just how inappropriate and nasty you actually have been.

        The Special Olympics is not about politics and neither is John Franklin Stephen’s moving letter. Anyone who has read it with an open mind and heart can tell you how motivational and humbling this reminder of our own emotional shortcomings should be. I’m going to try a little harder to keep that message in mind by refusing to play your dysfunctional little game and not responding to your “substantive points and challenges” or whatever you’re calling them today. If you honestly are unaware of just how lacking your posts have been in both decency and civility then I really do hope you find some clarity and balance in your life that may eventually help to ease your mind.

        Happy Halloween Everybody…….

      • The *entire* Left, in general, depicted Bush and often called him a re**rd for many years. I never saw, even once, the level of outrage you’ve expressed here. When you shared that personally didn’t use the word, I wrote back not only that I should have said the Left in general, but that I believed you. You’ve been the one attacking my humanity and decency, and I’ve been questioning the blatant hypocrisy of your ideological side. You are projecting, and besides being dishonest in general, you have been unjust and indecent to me, specifically. Shame on you.

  24. Thanks JFS, you make the world a better place with your open hearted and insightful wisdom. Ann Coulter could learn a lot from you if she knew how to look at herself honestly. Glad you’re on the planet 🙂

  25. Beautiful. I never understand why people believe the ‘r’ word will somehow make a bigger impact or more accurately express their thoughts than the word “stupid.” All using the ‘r’ word shows is that you’re an immature, uncompassionate, and cruel person, which, in my most humble of opinions, is much, much worse than being born with a handicap.
    Ms. Coulter, you can fuck right off.

    • You wrote:
      “Ms. Coulter, you can fuck right off.”

      Wow, you’re a class act. Besides, Anne was reacting, from her perspective, to a bully who was condescending and outright rude to not just her candidate, but to a friend of hers. She thinks Romney’s an exceptionally *good* person. So yes, she shouldn’t have said that word, in her defence of her friend and attack on his bully, but questioning her motives as deep as to dismiss her humanity completely is not only morally wrong, it is nuts.

      • Mrs. Macfarland,
        The fact that you are you are defending Mrs Coulter and Mr. Romney just prove how stupid and ignorant you truly are.

        If it was me writing the letter to Mrs. Coulter, I would have told her to pull her head out of her but, and take a flying leap of a cliff.

        The young man who wrote this letter have more intelligence then all three of you wacky jobs combined. He also has more heart snd courage than any of you idiots.

      • You wrote:
        “The fact that you are you are defending Mrs Coulter and Mr. Romney just prove how stupid and ignorant you truly are.”

        No, genius, I was sticking up for the real issue, these kids. The fact that the word re**rd is both used as a colloquial insult and as a medical condition, is not good; I agree. Yet for the Left, the ideological side which encourages and outright promotes the killing (‘aborting’) of Downs Kids, upwards of over 90%, to be on their high horse here, is disgusting. Especially after they’ve said hardly a word during the eight years P Bush was called the exact same word on a near daily basis.

    • I have to agree with Japes. How is telling someone to “f right off” any less disrespectful? What gives you the right to use language like that (along with all the people using pimp, ho, b, and all the others) but then be offended at one word? Why do we go along with people using the “n” word (even non-black kids say it now, in front of black kids, and they don’t care), but we freak out and pretend to be outraged at the use of “gay” when used as an insult?

      This is the very definition of hypocrisy and judgmentalism. You cannot arbitrarily decide what is offensive, and then use language that has been massively offensive for generations to condemn those who use the words you are offended by.

      I never use the ‘r’ word. But I also don’t use the f, n, b, h, or p word in the ways many, many people do today. You do not own the book on what is or is not offensive, or what is acceptable or not acceptable. That’s called integrity. Anyone who uses one offensive word to condemn another one is like a person using a legal gun to kill someone for owning a banned one.

      • Using a word that accurately describes a group of people as if it is an insult is what is offensive. Really, did you even read the open letter? It makes that very point quite eloquently and I’m sorry you missed the point.

        It’s fine to call someone gay when you mean they are homosexual. It’s not fine to call someone gay when you are trying to use it as an insult. Because the word “fuck” is not used in reference to a group of people, it might bother you but it is not inherently offensive.

      • I see. So there’s no offense “inherent” if it’s not directed at a person.

        And where is this law written? Who decided this is how offense and moral speech is supposed to work? You? All these little rules coming from people who consistently say they don’t like people “forcing” their values on them. Isn’t this a value, and aren’t you forcing it on me? I’m offended by the f word anytime it’s directed at a person, because I believe it’s “inherently” disrespectful. You’re telling me I have to “get over it” because of this little technicality you’ve dreamed up that “inherent” offenses are worse than non-inherent ones.

        Which moral code has that written down in it? Which command is it, and who gave it?

        Don’t you see that you are simply deciding what works for you, and because it makes sense to you, then you think it should make sense for everyone? That’s what the religious left is all about.

        If that’s your basis for right and wrong, then you should realize that everyone else will come up with their own basis for it as well.
        The correct way for you to make your point is: “Because the f word is not used in reference to a group of people, it might bother you but I BELIEVE it is not inherently offensive.”

        See? It’s just your belief. But your belief is based on nothing but your feelings.

        And, by your reasoning, a teacher can tell his students they are all stupid, because stupid isn’t in reference to a group of people. Are you okay with a teacher calling his students stupid? Then this must be more complicated than you thought…Maybe, just maybe, you might be wrong about something here….

      • I’m not clear if you’re responding to me, or someone else, but I agree with you. Well put.

  26. Great writing! Thank you for saying publicly what I think of every time I hear that woman talk. She is just a very mean person.

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  28. Dear John, I am sitting here looking at my beautiful 3 1/2 month old son who was born with Down Syndrome. You are an inspiration for all of us and I hope he can be like you one day. Ann Coulter is quite witty and intelligent and my guess is that she regrets choosing the word retarded–however its use by her begs a much larger question: in modern times, why is that word used at all?

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  32. I had not heard about Ann’s tweet until now… I get kind of bothered when people make limitations on the use of words like this. Who in this man’s life has called him a retard? That is what is terrible. He should not have to be offended by the word’s use, and anyone should be able to say it. The definition of retard is not “a person with Down Syndrome”.

  33. I would love to move this discussion to the real issue, regrading every person as masterpiece! My daughter has been through the special education system in our home district in Seaford, NY and I am proud to say that from the administration down to the teachers, students and parents they have all hone out of their way to include my daughter in everyday activities throughout the district. I can honestly say that this level of inclusion clearly comes down from the top and the administrators. They have set a high bar for inclusion within our community and the community has responded!! Thank you to Seaford staff, students, parents and administrators. You have welcomed my daughter in a way that has truly blessed our family by accepting her as just another student and community member! Let’s talk about this!!

  34. How do people like Ann Coulter even get an audience to listen to her? She shows no original thought or ideas and offers no real solutions. Anyone can criticize. That’s easy. It’s the true creators that make a difference.

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  36. Dear John. You are one of my biggest heros ever. Everyone should stop the word to end the word. thank you so much for being an amazing person.

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