The White House has apologized for comments attributed to officials in the Obama administration earlier this week and which referred to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as “Aspergery”, the Jewish Daily Forward reported on Thursday.
The Ruderman Family Foundation, an American charity which advocates for and the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community, condemned the insult - a reference to Asperger Syndrome - as "derogatory," and called for an official denouncement of its use by the White House.
The “Aspergery” insult was part of a series of derogatory terms - including “chickens**t - used to describe Netanyahu by unnamed officials who were quoted by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this week.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who heads RespectAbility, an organization devoted to helping people with disabilities, wrote to White House chief of staff Denis McDonough also complaining about the use of Aspergers as a slur, according to the Jewish Daily Forward.
“I was really stunned that the insults from the White House used a derogatory term connected to Autism Spectrum Disorder as a way to insult PM Netanyahu,” she wrote, according to the report.
“As the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum and a disability advocate, I would hope that our president, as well as you as chief of staff, will make it clear that such bullying has no place in our nation,” she added.
The White House responded quickly and on Thursday administration officials reached out to Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, telling him it was an “unfortunate misuse of language” and promising that the issue has been raised at higher levels.
“I’m glad we put this issue on the radar,” Ruderman told the Forward. “It is a perfect teaching moment to come out against using disabilities in a derogatory way.”
The comments in The Atlantic raised the ire of Israeli officials as well as of Republicans. On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the comments, saying they were "disgraceful, unacceptable and damaging."
He claimed the comments did not reflect the views of President Barack Obama or his cabinet.