Quick Action Leads Fox TV To Drop Use Of "R-Word"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 15, 2006
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA--Responding to complaints from parents of children with Down syndrome, the head of Fox Broadcasting announced Friday that the word "retarded" would no longer be allowed on the network.
While groups such as the National Down Syndrome Society, the National Down Syndrome Congress, and the Arc of the U.S. have been campaigning for years to get the media to stop using the word to negatively describe a person or thing, this is the first time the head of a major network has taken positive action.
According to a press statement from the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, the action was prompted by the National Down Syndrome Society in New York, which received a number of telephone complaints last week from parents who saw a promotional commercial for the new Wednesday night Fox TV show "The Loop". The promo reportedly included the statement, "You have a retarded squirrel look on your face."
NDSS contacted Gail Williamson, Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.
"The word exists on the medical charts of over 2 million people worldwide trying to fit into their communities and participating in education, employment, living, worship and recreation opportunities; it is extremely dangerous to use it as a derogatory term," Williamson said. "This casual use of the word meant to offend can escalate to isolation, segregation and even abuse of people with intellectual disabilities."
Williamson relayed those concerns to Lawrence Jacobs, General Counsel of Fox Entertainment Group and News Corp in New York, who then talked to Fox President Peter Ligouri. While it was too late to remove the word from the program itself, the offending promo was withdrawn immediately. Jacobs later said that Ligouri felt that if the use of the word offended people, it should not only be removed from "The Loop", but from all programs produced by Fox as well.
Jon Colman, NDSS Acting Director, applauded Ligouri for what is being considered a "groundbreaking decision", and said he hoped other networks would follow suit.