When I first read that Joe Scarborough said he suspects alleged mass murderer James Holmes might be autistic, I was skeptical. Surely he'd been misquoted or his comments taken out of context. No one could be that ignorant or so egotistic to think that based on what we know, autism would have anything to do with it, right? Sadly, it's wrong.
Scarborough did just that, and I, along with plenty in the autism community, am aghast and appalled. The MSNBC host and former politician made the outrageous comments on air. While he prefaced them by saying, "You don't want to generalize," he then went on to do that and so much more. He said:
As soon as I heard about this shooting, I knew who it was. I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society -- it happens time and time again. Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale. I don't know if that's the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses -- they can even excel on college campuses -- but are socially disconnected.
Arrogant. Ignorant. Appalling. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind. Autism is already cloaked with so much misunderstanding and so many misconceptions that it's beyond irresponsible for Scarborough to make such an outrageous assertion. For the individuals with autism and their families, it's a huge slap in the face and such a blatant example of the prejudice and ignorance they face every day.
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Even worse is the fact that Scarborough has a son with Asperger's and that he doesn't get why it's so hurtful to so many to immediately blame autism for this tragedy. He should know better. Instead he went on to pass more blame saying that while HIS son "is loved by everybody in his family and is wonderful," you have to worry about "those who may not have a loving family and a support group and may be a bit further along on the autism spectrum."
There's a petition at Change.org calling for him to retract his statements, and International Coalition for Autism and All Abilities (ICAA) has called for an apology from Scarborough, calling his comments "a sad yet strong illustration of the prevailing ignorance and bigotry in our culture regarding disabilities, specifically autism." I hope he issues one. The damage is already done, but he could at least do a little control by admitting that he was wrong ... oh so wrong in saying what he did. Here's the clip so you can hear for yourself.
Are you shocked and outraged by Joe Scarborough saying that James Holmes is probably autistic?
Image via Politico