Palin Slams Obama's 'Degrading Remark'

ABC News' Kate Snow reports:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has joined the chorus of those who were not amused by President Obama’s bowling joke when he appeared Thursday on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

"I was shocked to learn of the comment made by President Obama about Special Olympics," Palin said in a written statement issued Friday.  "This was a degrading remark about our world's most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world."

Palin’s son Trig was born last April 18 with Down syndrome.  While campaigning for Vice President last fall, Palin mentioned Trig at nearly every stop.

Call it political opportunism or call it a valid critique of the President.  Either way, in the statement today, Palin was quite direct.

"These athletes overcome more challenges, discrimination and adversity than most of us ever will.  By the way, these athletes can outperform many of us and we should be proud of them.  I hope President Obama’s comments do not reflect how he truly feels about the special needs community."

At the White House today, spokesman Robert Gibbs apologized again for the joke.

"I know that the president believes that the Special Olympics are a triumph of the human spirit. And I think he understands that they deserve a lot better than the thoughtless joke that he made last night. And he apologizes for that."

It was common at Palin’s campaign rallies in 2008 to see children with disabilities and their parents -- small heads sticking out of baby slings or tiny faces peering up at the stage from a stroller. Many were children with Down syndrome.  Some were certainly Special Olympians.

"You bring your sons and daughters with you, because you are proud of them, as I am of my son," Palin said at a Pittsburgh event last October. 

"My little fella sleeps during most of these rallies, even when they get pretty rowdy. He would be amazed to know how many folks come out to see him instead of me," she said.

At the time, Palin pledged that she would be an advocate for children with disabilities if she reached Washington.

"Too often, even in our own day, children with special needs have been set apart and excluded," Palin said in October. "Too often, state and federal laws add to their challenges instead of removing barriers and opening new paths of opportunity. Too often, they are made to feel that there is no place for them in the life of our country, that they don't count or have nothing to contribute."

"This attitude is a grave disservice to these beautiful children, to their families, and to our country -- and I will work to change it," she added.

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