I have heard some horrible things uttered in the name of comedy, but one rule of thumb any comedian worth his or her salt understands is that if you are going to mock someone mercilessly, they better deserve it. (One of the reasons why you can say almost anything about Sarah Palin, for example, is because she’s purposely provocative, escalating the culture war by pushing birther buttons and claiming the media manufactured a blood libel against her.) What you can’t do, however, is throw all sense of propriety and decency out the window and write a very lengthy blog post filled with video and images that make fun of her 3-year-old son with Down Syndrome.
Some might say the heartless mockery Wonkette’s Jack Steuf displayed in his recent post “honoring” Trig on his birthday came as a direct result of refound interest in Trig’s parentage. (Proof that karma is real: those fed up with the incessant proliferation of the idea that Obama was not born in the US are once again wondering if Sarah Palin lied about being pregnant with Trig to cover up a Bristol Palin pregnancy.) Regardless, the things Steuf wrote are shocking and unbelievable and certainly have nothing to do with the political discourse. Steuf makes fun of Trig’s Down Syndrome by calling him “the great gentleman scholar” and “the magic intellectually disabled baby prop.” Then he made the biggest mistake of his life: he called Trig “the r word.”
There’s been lots of discussion in the last few months about whether or not it’s okay to use the word retarded. Though some of us feel that the word has taken on new meaning in its slang use (an idea I defended for the comedy blog Splitsider), everyone here at Babble is in certain agreement that it’s never okay to use that word as a slur against a disabled person. Steuf tried to apologize for his error in judgement, saying, “I regret this post and using the word retarded in a reference to Sarah Palin’s child. It’s not nice, and is not necessary, but I take responsibility for writing it. For those who came and are offended by this post: I’m sorry, of course. But I stand by my criticism of Sarah Palin using her child as a political prop.”
It’s perhaps that last qualifier that made advertisers decide their dollars could be better spent elsewhere. Ad Age announced yesterday that Papa John’s and Huggies have pulled their ads from Wonkette. Wonkette responded to Papa John’s on Twitter, saying, “We beat up on Sarah Palin’s craven use of her son as a POLITICAL PROP. Child protective services should take Trig away.” And you should walk away from the keyboard, guys, before this gets worse.