“These are harmless kids. They just needed some help,” he said, adding that the effort was ultimately successful. “We got it done. Took a while.”
The term is considered outdated and offensive by many, and advocates for people with mental and intellectual disabilities discourage its use. On Monday afternoon, a Schumer spokesperson said the majority leader erred in using such an “inappropriate and outdated word” during the interview.
“For decades, Sen. Schumer has been an ardent champion for enlightened policy and full funding of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “He is sincerely sorry for his use of the outdated and hurtful language.”
The project Schumer was referring to was connected to an organization then known as the Association for the Help of Retarded Children. (AHRC has since dropped that name and now simply goes by the initials.)
In 2010 President Barack Obama signed a law striking the term “mentally retarded” from the bulk of federal statutes and replaced it with other terms, and New York enacted a similar law in 2011.
Schumer’s offhand comment came about midway through the more than hourlong appearance on the podcast, video of which was posted Sunday on the group’s Facebook page, which covers issues related to public housing in New York City and the lives of its residents.
“People are afraid, you know, I understand that,” Schumer said, continuing his original point. “When there’s change and they’re not given the things they need — safety and security — they get afraid. But you’ve got to address the real issues, not the fake issues.”