Ann Coulter and Disableist Language

by Renee Martin

After the debate, Anne Coulter took to twitter to degrade president Obama and in the process was disableist.

People living with disabilities (PWD) have worked very hard to make it clear that the word retard is offensive because it is disableist.  Essentially, to use the word “retard” in this fashion is to take someone’s life and use it as a pejorative to attack neurologically typical people.  Even when confronted with the problematic nature of her chosen language, Ann Coulter — being Ann Coulter — decided to double down on her bigotry by saying, “the only people who will be offended are too retarded to understand it.” Ann Coulter has built a career by touting the indefensible and by being as offensive as she possibly can be, so it’s not hard to understand why when pressed on the offensiveness of her speech, Coulter decided to up the ante.

There will be some people who will look at her tweet and say that it is irrelevant because of the source, but PWD cannot afford to take this stance.  John Franklin, who is a disabled Olympian, penned the following response to Coulter’s tweet.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics.  See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

I fall into the category of believing that Coulter does not have a heart.  Whether she truly believes all of the vile things she is on record as saying, or simply does it as a shtick to make a profit, it’s quite clear that as far as historically marginalized people are concerned, Coulter has a vested interest in insuring our continued oppression.

It was heartwarming to see that many people spoke out about Coulter’s choice to use the word retard pejoratively but it got me thinking about the everyday acts of disableism that have become so normalised in our culture. As a disabled woman, they are readily apparent to me because I have to negotiate them. I am well aware that the able-bodied sometimes have no idea of exactly how offensive their choice of language is, because there is no national conversation built around disrupting or eradicating disableist language, with the exception of the word “retard.”

The truth of the matter is that the word retard is not only ubiquitous, but there are plenty of other words in our discourse.  On a daily basis, language is peppered with the pejorative use of the words lamecrazymoron,idiotspecial, to name a few.  Little thought is given to how it affects us, dehumanizes us and others us. They’re just words right? No one means to be offensive right? The thing is, there is no shortage of adjectives in the English language which aren’t offensive and still yet these words are still spoken and PWD are silenced when we raise any opposition or erased altogether. Intent does not mean that harm has not been done.  I have a physical disability, and every time the word lame is uttered, it reminds me that my body is viewed as deficient and that I am perceived as less than.

The cynical part of me wonders how many people were actually upset that Anne Coulter used the word “retard” and how many people just saw this as an opportunity to attack one of Fox news’ bigoted talking heads?  The ease at which disableist language is used makes me believe the former.  The word “retard” is far from the only disableist word in common usage but you wouldn’t think that given the silence surrounding the various ways in which the able-bodied attack PWD. If Anne Coulter is guilty of being disableist, so are many people on both sides of the political spectrum.  Why aren’t we talking about that?  Why aren’t we having a discussion about how disableist language perpetuates the idea that PWD are “other” and that it leads to poverty and discrimination?  I highly suspect that if we were to get honest about disableist language that it would convict many. People would rather live the paternalistic lie that they are kind to PWD and that they don’t see us as an inconvenience, than challenging privilege. It is far easier to embrace power, than to realise that social power comes at the cost of those who are marginalized in some way.

  • Gennatay (@gennatay)

    Ann Coulter needs to be uppercut bus driver style on many things she has said both on TV and on twitter. Honestly I’m surprised her entire timeline throws insults to so many different people, both culturally and racially. It amazes me that media outlets still consider her an expert on anything.

  • Gennatay (@gennatay)

    *Honestly I’m surprised her entire timeline throws insults to so many different people,

    This should say….Honestly I’m surprised her entire timeline hasn’t come under scrutiny because throws insults to so many different people,

  • Yb

    Her face in that picture looks like melting wax.

    Anyways, I loathe when people use the word “retard” to insult people and so glad that I was taught better, and grew out of saying the word in my early teens.

    I’m glad that the disabled Olympian called her out, and her disgusting and pathetic response just goes to show how even MORE useless this subhuman is.

  • African Mami

    I have nothing nice to say about this woman, other than IDJOT GHEL, IDJOT GHEL, IDJOT GHEL, IDJOT GHEL

  • DeezaPeeza

    I have no idea what that means…

  • DeezaPeeza

    Welp, that was to be in response to African Mami’s post but uh, guess that didn’t quite work out.

  • Ms. Information

    Idiot gal? …Teach us girlie!

  • GlowBelle

    Ann Coulter is just a….MF-ing monster. Everything she says/does I tend roll my eyes at and keep it moving, because she’s just a loathsome person. Glad that the disabled person responded to that, we need more people like that to correct the blatant ignorance that just runs wild on the Internet and in this world.

    Someone on here awhile back said Coulter was just a performance artist doing an elaborate parody of conservatives and that she’s actually on the liberals side…I wanna know if that is really true or is that someone just trolling on here cause that just seems totally wacked out to me.

  • Brandt Hardin (@DREGstudios)

    Ann is just one of the talking heads guarding the inhabitants of Bullsh*t Mountain from rejoining the world of the sane. Fox News is a propaganda machine which dumbs down America by the day through disinformation and their slanted agendas. See their anchors spewing forth feces from their mouths in my visual homage to the network on my artist’s blog at

  • Gabriella

    I really appreciate this post and John Franklin’s response to Ann Coulter. I hope that this situation will make people become more conscious about using that word and others like it.

    However, I truly believe that we as a people should not even acknowledge anything that Ann Coulter says. In case you haven’t noticed, she has built her brand on saying the most vile, disgusting, and hateful things imaginable. Show and awe is not only what feeds her pockets, but her pathetic quest to fame as well. She craves attention. I personally don’t care what she has to say about ANYTHING. She is a waste of space as far as I’m concerned.

  • Anthony

    The fact Anne Coulter is probably quite well off from her career as a commentator says a great deal about the character of her audience. She appeals to people who are fueled by hate and nothing else. Expecting her not be nasty is like expecting a hog not to eat slop.

  • ?!?

    These are the same people who went after Sara Fluke and called her a whore. She and Rush Limbaugh and friends are some of the biggest bullies out there right now. If you’re a woman and disagree, you’re a whore. If you’re black and disagree, you’re a welfare queen. If you’re Hispanic and disagree, you’re illegal. If you’re a white male and disagree, you hate America.

    Child bullies don’t have to look very hard for inspiration. They learn it from their parents and other adults such as attention seeking political commentators.

  • c

    She is literally a talking turd with a blonde wig.

  • African Mami

    hi mama!!

    Simply put, she is an IDIOT.

  • paul


    talk about completely missing the point of the article.


  • paul

    This is a very well written piece.

    Hands up

    I call someone a retard idiot moron loon at least five times a day.


    but can someone provide us with some new words to cuss a fool out?

  • Rue

    “every time Ann Coulter ‘sings’* an angel sheds his wings”
    *i had to make it rhyme ;D

  • African Mami


    Talk about ALWAYS staying pressed to keep me on track!

    How are ya Paul? I don’t do catty, you might as well, say hi before you attack.

  • dirtychai

    I stopped saying “retarded” as soon as I was aware that it aided in marginalizing an entire group of people. Now the word is completely purged from my system — I won’t allow others to use it in my presence.

    S/N: This is a woman who likely had sex with Jimmie Walker. Not Dyn-o-mite! Jimmie Walker, but random cameo-appearing-on-cable Jimmie Walker. Calling somebody retarded…hmph!

  • African Mami

    it just means she is an idiot.

  • Shelly

    Okay…it we wqant these people to go away, we’ve GOT to stop talking about them. This chick, the fat white guy on the radio, the folks on Fox News, all of them. They live to irritate and offend us, and our constant complaining about what they say just fuels the fires. Let’s just stop it, already.

  • Jae Bee

    Although I agree that Ann’s usage of the word was deplorable, and was certainly used as a slur, I do have to note that the term “retard” is still used in clinical settings. Of course the person wouldn’t be called a “retard”, but they would still be diagnosed as having mental retardation/being mentally retarded.

  • http://none LINDA MONROE-LEWIS

    ANN COULTER has a Imparied bias Jim-crow mind and views to make such a Bigot statement to say or try and classify the Commander and Chief Obama as a Retard this got to be the biggest joke in 2012. maybe she use to ride the short school bus to school and got a flashback when she heard the pres is close to 4 more years. i futher say ms Coulter must be ” Special’ herself to make such a false statement in judgement about the president where is the respect from these people. This President is a STELLAR a hero

  • YiaYia

    Somebody kick her in her throat, please…

  • Val

    Two things. First, I am pleased that someone stood up for those that are intellectually challenged. That’s a good thing.

    Secondly, Ann Coulter is a media whore. She will say anything to get attention. So it would be great if the media just ignored her. If the media did ignore her she might actually go away. And that would be a great thing.

  • SpkKay

    I am not sure which clinical setting you are referring to, but as a speech-language pathologist who works with people with special needs, the new terminology is INTELLECTUALLY DISABLED or INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY. Mental Retardation, Retarded, and anything else that is remotely similar and/or just as offensive has been removed due to regulations.

  • http://clutchmagazine blcknnblv

    Ann coulter is a troll

  • vonn fennicks

    I just can’t believe the disrespect this woman shows every time she opens her mouth. Only in America can you get away with disrespecting your leader. FREEDOM OF SPEECH!?!

  • KJ Hardwick

    That’s an insult to trolls universally…ig’nant IS as ig’nant does…ignorance is NOT the same as being mentally disabled tho’.

  • ahimsa

    Thank you, not only for your comments on the word “retard” but also for pointing out the other slurs that people should be removing from their vocabulary. The word on that list that I hear way too often is “lame.” It’s even in kids movies! (e.g., Monsters vs. Aliens)

    This topic was mentioned by John Hockenberry, host of the radio show The Takeaway, not long ago. See (it’s in the second half of the clip)

  • ohyeaohyea

    Who cares what this airhead thinks. Obama isn’t my choice, but he’s certainly not an idiot. Now Bush…

Latest Stories

Why Oiling Your Scalp May Not Be Such A Bad Idea


Nigerian Officials Confirm Release of 44 Abducted School Girls


Watch: ‘Black People Mate’ a Parody About the Ridiculous Stats on Black Women & Dating


University President Under Fire for Wanting to Make School Less White In the Future

More in Ann Coulter, opinion
white school
Black Students, White Schools

Gimme That Old Time Tribal Religion