Earlier this week, Donald Trump took to Twitter to insult Hollywood actor Robert De Niro. “Robert De Niro, a very Low IQ individual, has received to many shots to the head by real boxers in movies. I watched him last night and truly believe he may be “punch-drunk.” I guess he doesn’t…,” Trump wrote, continuing his sentence in a second tweet, “…realize the economy is the best it’s ever been with employment being at an all time high, and many companies pouring back into our country. Wake up Punchy!”
While people were quick to point out Trump’s typo — he wrote “to many” when it should have said “too many” — the ableist undertones in his tweet have received far less attention. Unfortunately, Trump’s tweet is not an isolated incident but rather part of a long history of ableism. And, as a disabled woman, this deeply troubles me.
Of course, Trump’s recent tweet is not the first insult he has made at the expense of people with disabilities. In March, Trump referred to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as a “low IQ individual” during a National Republican Congressional Committee event. In a tweet from June 2017, Trump called MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, “low IQ crazy Mika.” Indeed, insulting people by proclaiming that they have a “low IQ” is very common for Trump.
However, as Ivanova Smith, a woman with an intellectual disability, wrote for NOS Magazine, “President Trump’s focus on IQ hurts people with intellectual disabilities.”
People with intellectual disabilities have faced a long history of oppression and segregation in the United States.
Intellectual disability — formerly known as mental retardation — is characterized as having an IQ below 70–75, as well as significant limitations in adaptive behaviors and the onset of the disability began before the age of 18, according to The Arc. Today, there are approximately 6.5 million people in the United States that have an intellectual disability.
People with intellectual disabilities have faced a long history of oppression and segregation in the United States. Through the late twentieth century, people with intellectual disabilities were forcibly sterilized. They were also warehoused in large state-run institutions — at its highest peak population, 195,000 people with intellectual disabilities lived in institutions.
Although the United States has witnessed significant strides in disability rights, people with intellectual disabilities are still far too often left behind. For example, many adults with intellectual disabilities are forced to work in sheltered workshops, earning pennies per hour. People with intellectual disabilities also contend with pervasive misconceptions about their ability to raise children. Shockingly, research suggests that up to 80 percent of parents with intellectual disabilities have involvement with the child welfare system, often resulting in termination of their parenting rights.
As president, Trump should be working to ensure that all people in the United States — including those with disabilities — are respected and afforded every opportunity to prosper. Instead, Trump continuously uses ableist slurs that perpetuates negative ideas about people with disabilities.
As president, Trump should be working to ensure that all people in the United States — including those with disabilities — are respected and afforded every opportunity to prosper.
Of course, Trump’s disdain for people with disabilities is not limited to his offensive language. Indeed, his presidency has negatively impacted nearly every facet of the lives of people with disabilities — such as health care, education, and civil rights, to name a few.
Just last week, the Trump administration announced that it would no longer defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court challenges. If Trump gets his wishes, and the ACA is repealed, people with disabilities and other pre-existing conditions will be at risk of losing their health insurance.
Trump’s disregard for the disability community began long before his presidency and continues today. From his properties repeatedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to mocking a reporter with a disability, Trump has demonstrated again and again how little respect he has for people with disabilities. This week’s tweets are just another example of a troubling history of ableism.
Children learn growing up not to call people names. Why then is it acceptable for the President of the United States to repeatedly insult people with disabilities? This must stop.