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Obama aide Rahm Emanuel in trouble not for #$%^&* comment but for saying 'retarded'

February 3, 2010 |  7:51 pm


Nobody ever accused Windy City politicians of playing schoolyard games. Or speaking softly. Even politely, especially among themselves.

Remember those wiretap tapes about a year ago of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich?

Well, the fellow who took over Blago's North Side Chicago seat in the House of Representatives is Rahm Emanuel, former Democratic machine go-fer, Clinton aide, congressman and now Obama Chief of Staff.

Emanuel is rightly famed for his salty -- no, make that sulfuric -- language.

In fact, then-Sen. Obama once fondly referred to Emanuel's profanity habit during his speech at a Washington roast.

Emanuel's in trouble now, not for saying ^%$&*) or even &@#$*& you.

Obama's top aide was apparently accurately quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal story as saying some plan to run advertising was "$%^&*#+ retarded."

The R word is one that groups like Special Olympics and Republican ex-Gov. Sarah Palin are seeking to banish from common American usage as derogatory to those like Palin's infant son with mental disabilities.

So, Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics chair (and brother to California First Lady Maria Shriver) wrote Emanuel a gentle note:

"I can only imagine how difficult it must be to serve the country in this time. But what did trouble me was the quote attributed to you describing a plan to air certain ads as 'f-----g retarded.' "

Special Olympics supporters will remember that Obama himself got into some trouble a while back for referring to the event in a disparaging manner during an appearance on a late-night talk show. He too called Shriver to apologize.

Just to underline the point of regret, Emanuel met this afternoon at the White House with Shriver and a committee delegation, to re-apologize, to promise not to use the term and to agree to sign an online pledge to refrain from such a word.

Meanwhile, famed radio talker and noted civil libertarian Rush Limbaugh used the word repeatedly in a broadcast. Some people would call that, uh, defiant.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Charles Arbogast / Associated Press