I’ll be honest. Until a few days ago, I had no idea who Margaret Cho was. But when Twitter lit up about her making an “I don’t want a retard” comment, the star of Drop Dead Diva and Dancing With the Stars appeared on my radar screen. While discussing her prospects for motherhood on Watch What Happens Live, Cho, who is 43, joked, “My period comes like twice a month. My eggs are jumping ship,” she said. “Seriously, they’re like, ‘the last one out’s a retard.” She went on to say, “I get worried about that, as an older woman, I don’t necessarily want to have a retard.”
It’s commonly known that older women are more likely to have a child with Down syndrome, so it’s probably not a stretch to assume that Cho was referring to having a baby with trisomy-21 (or another chromosomal abnormality). At first, I was only mildly agitated. Comedians who make jokes at the expense of the intellectually disabled are as common as white bread. But I decided maybe I ought to at least find out who Margaret Cho was (Ricky Gervais and Tracy Morgan I’d recognize if they walked in my house. Margaret Cho…not so much). What I found made my blood boil.
I found hypocrisy with a capital H.
Cho, who is openly bisexual, is a well-known advocate for LGBT rights and has received accolades for her efforts on behalf of women, Asians, and the LGBT community. Following are just a few of her achievements, pulled directly from her website:
“She…received the First Amendment Award from the ACLU of Southern California, and the Intrepid Award from the National Organization for Women (NOW). Throughout her career, she has been honored by GLAAD [Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation], American Women in Radio and Television, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and PFLAG [Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays] for making a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identity. In June of 2011, Margaret will be honored by LA Pride, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.
So according to Cho, women deserve equal rights, Asians deserve equal rights, and the LGBT community deserves equal rights, but babies with Down syndrome deserve to be …used as a punchline?
Equal rights for all means just that – equal rights for ALL.
Just like you can’t advocate for censorship while praising the First Amendment, you can’t claim to be for equality while treating others as lesser beings.
Cho issued an apology on her blog, and it seemed sincere (none of the “I’m sorry you were offended” non-apology rhetoric), and then she followed it up with a lengthier additional post apologizing again. I believe that Cho learned a valuable lesson, and I doubt she will make the same mistake again. I appreciate the fact that she acknowledged her mistake, rather than hiding under the cowardly cover of “it’s just comedy” that many comedians choose when called out publicly.