American Idol Caleb Johnson, you just lost your biggest fan. Here’s how to win her back.

photoThis week Caleb Johnson is in the final four for the contestants on American Idol. But, because of a stupid comment, he just lost his biggest fan. Here’s how to win her back. [This post has been updated; scroll to the bottom for updates].

Having kids, American Idol has been one of my family’s favorite shows. This season, my daughter Juliet initially championed Jessica Meuse. She knows Wednesdays and Thursdays are when the show airs and on those days, would ask, “Dad, American Idol?” “Yes, Juliet.” “Yay, Jessica!”

That was until Caleb Johnson blew the roof off the joint with his version of the Black Crowes’ “Sting Me.”

Then he followed it up last week with Whitesnake’s, “Still of the Night.”

His versions impressed me, but not half as much as they impressed Juliet.

I hope Jessica’s not upset by this, but Caleb overtook her as Juliet’s favorite. Each morning, she’d ask to see the performance on YouTube. Regularly requesting, “Caleb, Sting Me.” Or, “Caleb, Still of the Night.”

But, then I learned of Caleb’s stupid comments following his performance last week.

Last week’s show had fans picking songs for the contestants. Caleb’s first song was Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Here’s what he said after the show about the song choice:

[Twitter] gives access to a bunch of retards to talk to me,” Caleb said, astonishingly. “I don’t really enjoy having to see somebody telling me what song I have to sing. I think at this point of the competition, I can pick and choose my own songs and represent me. I don’t need 10,000 people saying, ‘You should sing this, you should sing that. Listen to me!’ Fortunately, guys, I’m going to listen to myself, whether you like it or not.

With Juliet having Down syndrome, hearing “retard” usually makes me change the channel or have a conversation with the person who said it. Since she was born, I have dreaded the day she’s at school or is out with her friends, and someone calls her that word.

It wasn’t that long ago when that was clinically acceptable to label someone with Down syndrome, or any other intellectual or developmental disability, a retard. But, things have been changing quickly on that front: federal and state legislation replacing “mental retardation” with “intellectual or developmental disability” and the Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.

These measures have made a real change, with “retard” quickly becoming the “r-word,” the same as the “N-word” is now referred to in that way.

But, Caleb, so far, doesn’t get it. Here’s his mush-mouthed “apology:”

For the record that juvenile comment I made in the interview was not directed towards my fans but to the wackos that send hundreds of hate messages a day to me! You guys are amazing and I cannot thank you enough for your support. Sorry if it offended anybody it was the wrong choice of words. Also I greatly appreciate it when you guys give me song suggestions but it gets really overwhelming at the volume it comes in so please understand ! Rock on !:)

Now imagine if Caleb had used another slur against a minority group: the “N-word,” “F-g,” “K*ke,” “Ch*nk,” “Sp*c.” Imagine any of those. Would he get away with “Sorry if it offended anybody it was the wrong choice of words”?

Of course not.

And, so the continued acceptance of ridiculing those with intellectual disabilities is allowed, even in apologizing for it.

Here’s the real simple way for Caleb to win back Juliet and others:

Take the pledge to spread the word to end the word, making “retard” and “retarded” the “r-word.”

It’s as easy as signing an on-line pledge.

And, then, take the next step, Caleb. Apologize, forthrightly and fully, not in a passive way. Say you’re sorry. On live T.V. Wednesday.

And then ask Ryan Seacrest, the judges Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban, the other Idols, and America to join you in taking the pledge to spread the word to end the word.

Then, you’ll have made a difference and an impact. And, you’ll win back Juliet as your biggest fan.

UPDATE: Well, no pledge made on the air, yet, but there are more opportunities.


Thanks to so many who have shared this post, shared the write-ups of this post at the Huffington Post and AmericanIdolNet, and tweeted and retweeted to American Idol and Caleb Johnson. Thanks particularly to those who have left a comment at the American Idol webpage for Caleb’s journey asking, respectfully, for him to use this opportunity to have others learn that the r-word perpetuates ridicule and discrimination against those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Watching the show, I couldn’t help thinking that the judges and Randy Jackson would not have been so praising of Caleb’s performance if he had used a slur that they had a connection with. Perhaps they think that he has sufficiently apologized. Or, more likely, whether it’s on their radar or not, they’re invested in making the show successful and don’t want to bring controversy or criticism to the show. But, taking the pledge on-air would do none of that. Instead, it would be consistent with Idol’s philanthropic efforts of “American Idol Gives Back” and the show’s commitment to inclusion of all people as contestants.

The odds are diminishing that American Idol and Caleb will take this opportunity to truly have a moment and make a positive impact by taking the pledge to end the r-word, but time remains on the Idol clock. This is not about vengeance or anger at Caleb or wanting to see him fail. This is about Caleb and American Idol making amends and doing what’s right, as they would have done if any other slur had been used by one of their contestants.

Continue to tweet, share, contact the show, and leave comments on the Webpage asking that they take the pledge to end the “r-word” on-air. There are several more shows left and they can still do what is right.

UPDATE: Well, on top of no mention having been made by American Idol or Caleb Johnson about taking the pledge to end the “r-word,” Juliet’s first-favorite, and then second-favorite after Caleb, Jessica Meuse, was voted off last week. In case you missed what Caleb said, here’s that video (comments around the 1:30 mark):

It seems that everyone has “moved on,” but there remains opportunities for American Idol and Caleb to do something good. There are more shows remaining in the season. Hopefully, they will take one of the opportunities to take the pledge to end the “r-word,” or even make the simple statement by wearing a t-shirt from the R-word store in one of the clips they shoot.

Below is a segment from Clint Otis, a local college student explaining why we should end the use of the “r-word.” He happens to also be the son of Down Syndrome of Louisville’s excellent office manager and is a super volunteer for the organization.

WDRB 41 Louisville News

Clint made this statement on local t.v. and it will have a positive effect. Caleb can do the same and have a national positive effect by taking the pledge. You, too, can ask Caleb and American Idol to take the pledge by leaving a comment on the Idol’s webpage here. Thanks to those who have already and particularly for everyone keeping it respectful and asking for a positive to come of this negative.

UPDATE: Caleb Johnson has won American Idol. Congratulations, to him and his family, featured on the program. Being a KISS fan, I enjoyed his performance with the band on the show’s finale. I hope in time Caleb will see the power of his words and his platform, and he’ll choose to speak well of others, rather than insulting them with slurs that perpetuate ridicule of those with intellectual disabilities. He can do so by taking the pledge to end the “r-word,” and I hope that he still will as he moves on to what should be a successful performing career.

I hope you will take the pledge as well. Words do matter. The world becomes a better place the less we insult each other. You can take the pledge at this link. I invite you to do so.


  1. Great post. Thank you for continuing to educate others!

    • sheilacasemassey says:

      I have a special needs grandchild and cannot stand anyone to use that word. You should be ashamed and apologize. You were my favorite from the beginning but I am not so sure now.

      • There’s nothing wrong with the word retarded. Mentally retarded is quite literally what persons with down syndrome, and other developmentally challenged people are. The issue is with years of people using ‘retarded’ in derision. Whatever you choose today to sooth your bleeding heart, will be confiscated by angry, bitter, ignorant young people, who will invent a new word to hurt people that can not defend themselves. It’s called the human condition.

        • Your reply suggests that those who do not have a diagnosed label must therefore be mentally normal, when the second part of your reply demonstrates is not the case, since those considered mentally normal are crueler. And I expect many minority groups have had their hearts, bleeding or otherwise, soothed because they are no longer called the epithets that not to long ago were acceptable in civil society. “Retard” needs to join those terms.

  2. Rhianan says:

    I couldn’t agree more……..

  3. Darlene says:

    As a parent with a child that has Down syndrome I get it. It’s a shame that people don’t think how hurtful or offensive a word can be. People can be cruel, but they are the ones missing out, because we were blessed with the greatest gift of all.

  4. Brought me to tears what an amazing Parent you are…..

    • Thank you, Susan. What a difference it could make if they actually make the pledge on live TV. Through shares and retweets, maybe it will happen.

      • Bullies behind keyboards are still bullies!! says:

        Mark, while I appreciate your campaign to end the “r” word, how do you know that Caleb does not have a disability of his own? I have a special needs child as well who has impulsive speech and says inappropriate, offensive words because her brain is wired differently. It’s a part of her disability and she can’t help it. Children with Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD also impulsively say offensive words without being able to control it. Without knowing Caleb’s medical history, it seems unfair to judge him without knowing if he has an issue related to prefrontal cortex development. As a mother of a child with impulsive speech, it is heartbreaking to bear witness to the cyber-bullying that occurs as a result of this offensive speech. While you may not have personally been one to post harassing messages on Caleb’s facebook page, he has received numerous threats, including death threats. If proposing a campaign to end a word only ends up with the offender being cyber-bullied, it’s not making much of a difference. It’s only filling these so called compassionate people full of hatred. I hate the “r” word too and would love for it to go away, but we also need to educate people NOT to bully a person just because they made a mistake in choosing a word.

        • I, too, have regretted seeing those comments on Caleb’s Facebook page. Hence why I’ve made a point in my communications to say I don’t want to see him voted off and said in the update that this isn’t about vengeance or anger. If you view the comments left on the American Idol webpage for Caleb’s journey, those calling for him to take the pledge to end the r-word, I don’t think, can fairly be described as cyber-bullying.

  5. Amen. Well said

  6. Brianne Gregor says:

    Well said! This is the second time in 2 months this issue has been in the media! Neither time do I feel like it has been handled properly! However, there has been an abundance of media coverage on the LA Clippers owner that really didn’t even call a name. He was just mad at his ex-girlfriend for hanging with someone else! I don’t know how to end this! I am also a mother of an adorable child with Downs! I feel like I am always on the defense, defending his rights and trying to make sure he is accepted in this horrible, ridiculing world! All he knows is love and complete acceptance with his family and our friends! As I said about the ignorant guy on Hannity, fortunately for my son, people like this will never have the privilege to meet him and be blessed with his presence!

    • You drew the parallel I was thinking of with the Sterling remarks.

    • Brianne, you say you don’t know how to end it? No, you can’t, but rest assured you are not alone, together we will end it, one person at a time. I successfully converted a co-worker who used the R word fairly often, just ignorant on the hurt the word was bringing me as an uncle of a developmentally disabled child… until I put a face to the name and he understood the impact the word had. We’ve got your back!

      • Linda Jones says:

        Such an effective way to “change the world” one person at a time: “put a face to the name” and hopefully, each person will then follow through with each person they know! This is also an effective way to talk to your “representative” legislators…connecting a “face” with the issues you support is so important. Our legislators can’t know EVERYTHING about every bill they are supposed to vote on. It is each person’s civic responsibility to help educate and inform. If you don’t do it, who will?

        • Forgive and Forget says:

          Putting a face to a name and calling them out on a mistake is “public shaming and humiliation.” We have all put our foot in our mouth at some point, but to shame someone for making a mistake is just wrong. I would have signed the pledge if this contestant had not been singled out the way he was. I don’t believe this is the Christian way and it is our responsibility to accept an apology (even if it’s not to your standards). Forgive and forget. A word is only offensive if you allow it to offend you. Even though Mark was very respectful with his request, the horrible backlash that has happened as a result of this campaign (and media attention) is unacceptable. This is the end result of calling someone out on their mistake and we should never be so judgmental.

          • Just because other people chose to react in the wrong way, does NOT mean Mark was wrong to bring attention to the use of a hurtful word. Do you not spread the word of God just because you will upset a lot of people these days? And concerning being “judgmental”–if you see a man walking down the street with a walking cane, and glass eyes, is it judgmental to say “That man is blind”? No, being judgmental is saying something about someone that you don’t know for sure to be true, or you’re making an assumption. We know for sure that it’s wrong to use insulting language–whether it’s about race, religion, or mental abilities. So please, people, let’s NOT give up on trying (in a nice, positive way) to get others to understand how hurtful words can be!

  7. tammy Hanson says:

    You show great class and way to call him out on it. My daughter has rett syndrome and nothing bothers me more than people thinking they can get away with this. Thanks!

    • We all say things we regret. But he has a platform and an opportunity to make real amends and real change. I hope he’ll take the pledge live on tomorrow night’s show.

      • Diana J. Hartley says:

        Great way to remedy the situation Mark! I hope they respond with everyone taking the pledge as you suggested, I’m sure it would catch on with others. Thanks for your creative solution to the problem. : )

  8. Please know there are people out here with no personal relationship to anyone with any “intellectual or developmental disability” that feel so strongly to ending this word as well. Thank you for your story. Pledge signed and posted!

    • Thank you, Sandy. Through my years in the non-profit DS world, I’ve met so many folks who work to help those w/DS who don’t have a family member. There are so many good people and I’m glad there are those like you who will take the pledge.

  9. Having recently had a video of my son called “retarded” and then my son referred to as a “retard”, I can certainly understand how this made you feel. My older son, Ashton (who is 15 years old) is on the Autism Spectrum. I had recorded a video of him singing along with a cover done of the Frozen hit, “Let It Go”. I posted it on YouTube, shared it on Facebook, Twitter and my blog and within a couple of weeks, got the comments I mentioned before. The first time, it broke my heart. I’d NEVER had my son referred to as such before. If it’s been done behind my back, I’m unaware of it. But never point blank, in my face. I was crushed.

    When it happened again a few days later, I posted a rather vehement response both on the YouTube video itself and reiterated my stance on the word on my blog.

    It’s a word that SHOULD NEVER be used – ever. It’s heartbreaking when it’s posted/said and serves absolutely no purpose other than to make another feel bad.

    Your daughter is incredibly lucky to have such a proactive parent who reaches out to spread the word to end the word! Keep it up! 🙂


    • The anonymity of the internet allows for boorish behavior in comments (I’ve had my share here). But, keep sharing your son with the world–best way to change attitudes.

  10. I know Caleb personally and I also have a dear friend, more like a sister, who has that extra chromosome. By the way, she totally rocks it! Her name is McKenzie and I bet she would rival you to be Caleb’s biggest fan. 😉

    Please know that Caleb is a wonderful guy who allowed his momentary lapse in judgement to cause such a ruckus. I am VERY much sickened by what he said but I also know the depths of his character and know he is better than his mistake.

    Early last week our sweet McKenzie received a package from Hollywood. She was so excited! Caleb sent her a Hollywood, CA shirt and signed it for her. She has worn it often since.

    Caleb never meant any disrespect by his comment but it has certainly caused hurt. He is better that and I hope the media allows that to shine through.

    Please remember that we all do and say things that we aren’t proud of. We should extend grace and forgiveness.

    I support the pledge and will sign it in honor of my sweet McKenzie.

    • Erica–I hope my post came off even-handed enough. We’ve all said things we regretted. I’m hoping Caleb, though, takes this as an opportunity few of us have when we’ve insulted or offended another person. He has the chance to change attitudes and minimize the use of the word he apologized for using. I hope he’ll take the pledge live on-air, or, failing that, wear a shirt from the campaign or at least a wristband (available here). If you have a means of contacting Caleb, I hope you’ll pass on this suggestion. Thank you.

      • His post is not only offensive based on the use of a word that should be banned from our language, as it is not only insulting but extremely ignorant. He is also condescending and arrogant. He’s in essence attempting to insult the very people that put him there. I don’t feel offended by the word because I know it came from a stupid selfish person, but the way he meant it to be is what is irritating. You may have known this guy before his five minutes of fame, but his true colors are now shinning through. He’s not even a star yet and his “fame” has already gone to his head. May God forgive him and karma don’t come around to punish him for his lack of good judgement like you are calling it.

        • I would be less harsh, as I don’t know Caleb well enough to consider him stupid or selfish, but rather acting in a stupid or selfish way. However, I agree his true colors can shine through that if he’s a good guy, he can do a positive thing by taking the pledge publicly.

  11. Judy Ostrowsky says:

    Well said

  12. I’m happy to read that the US government has changed their language. My younger brother has an intellectual disability associated with a severe form of epilepsy. We have never needed to use the R word even when talking scientifically/medically.

    • I regularly share President Obama’s quote of Rosa’s brother: “What you call people is how you treat them. If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude towards people with disabilities.” Hopefully Caleb will use the Idol stage to start the change in attitudes by taking the pledge on-air tomorrow night.

  13. The show’s called American Idol, not American Decent Person.

    • Caleb recognizes he shouldn’t have said the “r-word,” but he can actually do more than the statement on FB–he can actually make positive change by taking the pledge. Hopefully he will.

  14. Judy chesler says:

    M daughter has Cerebral Palsy and has spoken in our community on ending the “r” word. I love Caleb,s singing abilities, but I can not condone him not appreciating other’s differing abilities and/or challenges. Great post. Thanks for advocating for those without a voice.

    Heathers mom

  15. Crystal says:

    Thank you so much for this! I hope he gets to read it. I WAS a fan, but after reading this I’m reconsidering. Not only did he offend tbose with disabilities, (I have a granddaughter with CP) but also just his fans in general.. Not a smart move on his part!

    • I think he recognized that fairly quickly, but deeds speak louder than words, and signing the pledge would likely not only bring back those fans he offended, but generate even more fans.

  16. He didn’t apologize for using the word at all. He apologized for referring to his fans as “retards” because it was meant for “wackos” who send him messages. Now a double apology is needed.

  17. Jess Eckhoff says:

    Wonderful blog post, mark! We are so lucky to have you as an advocate and champion. I truly hope your suggestion is heeded. A gracious on-air apology and pledge could turn a wrong into an educational point for millions of viewers. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that somehow his comments are acknowledged by himself, idol or fox. We’ll see.

    • And we are so unlucky that you guys aren’t here! We miss you all. Hopefully we’ll all be surprised tomorrow night watching Idol. Special Olympics has picked this up and as more people share with their network and tweet the show, some real change may happen.

  18. Thank you for this post. As a mom of a 14 month old with DS, hearing that word is extremely hurtful. The so-called apology, IMO is worthless; not only did he do the whole “sorry *if* I offended anyone,” but he also said, “I didn’t mean any of my fans.” As if it’s okay to say it about the “wackos” on twitter, you know, the ones who aren’t his fans?! I don’t watch AI, but I’ll be waiting for updates on whether Caleb, as well as the judges, step up and do the right thing.

  19. I find it so frustrating there are many people who freak out when they hear racist or homophobic slurs, don’t been think twice when they use the R-word.
    I am the Father of two kids with special needs. This article really choked me up. I hope this Caleb guy does the right thing. Sadly, I doubt he will.

  20. i have a question for the person who wrote this article. When Caleb said “retard” which is disgusting that he said that word, my question is why did you take offense? Are you telling us that you look at your child as a “retard”. Because if you took offense to that, that is exactly what you are telling us. The change begins with you and how you think and look at your own child. People with Down Sydrome are very gifted in many ways. To hear someone say “retard” and get offended can only mean one thing. You also look at your own child that way. How very sad!

    Caleb, watch your mouth. You are now in the public eye. Even if you weren;t, The word is worse than rude!

    • I think my concern was plainly stated in the post: that by using that word, it makes it likely that my daughter will be insulted with that word in the future. According to your logic, African-Americans could only take offense at being called the “n-word” if they perceived themselves as an “n-word.” Rather, as you note at the end, the word “retard” is worse than rude and Caleb should not have used it. I’m asking him to take this opportunity to show others the “r-word” should not be used. If he does, then it will make it less likely that my daughter and others will be insulted in the future.

      • Mark, I do understand your anger, you child is not retarded, she is a gift from God. So is Caleb, he is insensitive and offensive, but he is so young. Where did he get his attitudes from? I think that because of his comments, Caleb will be doing a whole lot of thinking about what is appropriate and what is hurtful. We sometimes have to give people a second chance. Who knows this may be an eye opener for Caleb and maybe he will have learned a valuable lesson. I don’t believe for a minute that his intent was to hurt. It was a remark that was made without his brain in gear. Forgive and let him have that second chance. By the way I do not know Caleb or any member of his family, but I have kids who have made mistakes, some small, and some not so small. I forgive them always because that is what we are suppose to do before God. To be perfectly honest my heart goes out to poor dumb Caleb right now.

    • This makes no sense.

      Nobody wants their loved one hurt by negative slurs. To be offended doesn’t mean you look at your loved one as that slur.

  21. robyn bryant says:

    Very well said Mark! My daughter is special needs. The correct term is Developmental Delay!! I have already taken the pledge to end the R word!! 🙂 Like you I am an advocate for my daugter and other’s as well!! The facility where my daughter receives services also changed their name from MRDD to just Board of DD!!! I firmly believe in educating those who are uneducated! 🙂

  22. Barbara says:

    Stop making a mountain out of a mole hill. He apologized. He was not calling your child or anyone else A RETARD. How would you like it if you were judged for every statement you have ever made.

    • Actually, he was calling people a retard, and even continued to do so in his apology. And, if you scroll down, you’ll see that I appreciate we all will say something we regret. But, Caleb has an opportunity few of us have to actually do something positive through his platform provided by Idol. If positive change can come of this, then I’m glad to make this mountain, but I dispute that this is a molehill and suspect you would too if you had a loved one with and intellectual or developmental disability.

  23. cowgirl says:

    Wow, I have noticed Caleb getting a little full of himself, more so than some of the others that have done well on Idol, too bad can you imagine what he’s gonna be like if he wins, too bad.

  24. Joanne Flanagan says:

    You are so right to say that his apology wasn’t an apology. He was sorry that his fans thought it was about them. It was really about the wackos. Oh, o.k. that makes your comment acceptable. Thanks for fighting the fight.

  25. Well said!
    I have just posted this blog on the American Idol FB page and also sent them a private message urging them to consider sending it to their producers. Fingers crossed because AI could have a great impact on ending this revolting term.

  26. Leslie Sieleni says:

    Thank you Mark for a wonderful post! Looking forward to seeing if he does the right thing but….his current apology was more about telling people to back off cause he is “stressed”. Booo hooo no remorse at all! A**!

  27. Tell her Jessica still loves her and has a giving heart bet she would do this for her.

  28. Delia Bradford says:

    I’m a parent of a Down Syndrome young man with alot more class than Caleb. Caleb needs to apologize because he means it, and not just because he needs votes.

  29. Sheryl Lu says:

    Thank you!

  30. I am beyond FURIOUS!! I am the mother of a 28 year old young man with Downs Syndrome who is a HUGE Idol fan and has been voting religiously for Caleb. Someone tell me how to post something about this on the Idol website. I agree with all the other comments about the fame already going to his head. I also was voting for him cause my son wants him to win sooo badly but wont be doing that ANYMORE!! As far as his so called apology, in my book it wasnt one. SHAME ON YOU CALEB!!! It would break my sons heart if he was able to read your stupid twitter post!!

  31. I think many people do not see using the R word as offensive, and need to be educated about it. I work in the field of developmental disabilities and before starting work there we often used the R word to describe events or items or ideas….. my kids still occasionally do… they do not mean any offence but see at as a way to truly describe something. Some of the people I work with think too big a deal is made over it, that it does not refer to people or try to insult people every time it is used. I get why it should not be used and I have signed the pledge. I also know there are many people who have no emotion at all tied to using this word, and just need to be educated – if Caleb had just said what he meant no one would have had an issue – I take further issue with his reference to hookers and cocaine or what ever drug he mentioned. Kid needs humility for sure.

    • Sandy–I completely agree that Caleb likely used the term without malice, just as it is used in the vernacular to insult people being stupid. But, he soon realized he shouldn’t have said it and now has an opportunity to raise the awareness of millions on how the “r-word” should cease to be used in an insulting or ridiculing way.

  32. I am hoping Fox 11 will give Caleb the opportunity to apologize on live TV. Using that word is very offensive to our community. We were a fan of Caleb but for now we will go to our #2 american idol choice, he has changed our minds. He doesn’t only impact the immediate family, but our special children, have Aunts, Uncles, cousins, friends that watch American Idol also. As an American Idol besides singing, you also need additional qualities for people to look up to.

  33. Kelsey Garmon says:

    I love this! As an aspiring speech therapist with a focus on students with Down Syndrome and on the autism spectrum, I try my best to stay up on all things pop culture in order to really get to know my students and make our sessions fun. My students LOVE American Idol, but I have a parent who is trying to encourage a mass boycott because of Caleb’s recent comments. I can only hope they don’t stop watching every show or listening to every artist who has a minor slip of the tongue and does their best to apologize.

    Now to these “minor tongue slips”. I find myself correcting my boyfriend every time he says it and lately he has even caught himself saying the “r” word. I think that’s how the campaign succeeds. Just the corrections in one person can lead to them correcting others and beginning a domino effect.

    • I regret for Caleb’s sake that some are calling for him to be voted off the show. At the same time, that would be automatic if he had said a racist or some other slur, so there is a bit of justification. However, he has an opportunity to have a massive domino effect if he says he took the pledge and hopes America will do the same at

  34. I do not believe for a second that Caleb’s comment was right. But, he is young, and he was not referring to people with mental handicaps. His comments were taken out of context and his apology was sincere. I don’t believe that Caleb should lose the chance to become the next American Idol. He is the most talented entertainer there. He is young and he said something really stupid and wrong. Why is everyone out for blood. Sheesh, he said he was sorry and he meant it. Don’t destroy his dream, what ever happened to foregiveness. Caleb I wish you the best of luck and in the future think before you speak. It is not right to hurt anyone.

    • I’m not out for blood and I don’t think a fair reading of my post suggests I am. Instead, I’m asking Caleb to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness.

    • I was getting ready to say what Mark just said – he’s trying to promote awareness and asking Caleb to help use the platform he’s been so graciously been given, to help promote the campaign “The Word to Stop the Word”.

  35. Wow…he apologizes for offending individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities by offending people with mental illness. Yuck.

  36. Bigjaww says:

    Nice thing about this country is you can express yourself any way you want. Let him blow up from his comment. That is the best way for someone to learn what effect being in front of the public EYE means. He might go adios!! I will still buy his music because he does rock the house and hard rock never dies. Blue Oyster Cult Lives!

  37. Rhonda Miller says:

    I honestly can’t stand by and not say something about this. Caleb was wrong. He is insensitive, rude and is nothing more than a pompous punk. People like him are uneducated and self serving. He is not worthy of an opportunity like AI and shame on him for being so cruel. A slur is a slur. It doesn’t matter if he said the “R” word, or any other slur .. it’s wrong. He has time and again made comments about things that offend others and he then apologizes. Well, you can only apologize so much before people start realizing you are doing nothing more than giving us lip service and not a heartfelt and meaningful apology. His 30 seconds of fame is about up, and people like him should stay in school and learn to treat others the way you want to be treated and if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Plain and simple.

  38. I hate the term “retard” used by so many so casually. While I do hate it, it’s not a word meant to hurt anyone in particular or anyone who is retarded in any way. It’s just a wrong use of words that really needs to be elilminated from casual use in describing someone in a negative manner (as being stupid, silly, whatever….). It’s just not nice.
    On the flip side, those offended need to grow up and stop taking everything so seriously. I’m tired of all the politcally correct issues at hand in just about everything. Deal with it and hope the problem will lessen.

    • So, one way of “dealing with it” to have the word be eliminated, as you say, is for Caleb to take the pledge to end the r-word on-air. That would help make it clear that its a wrong use of words that needs to be eliminated.

  39. The right man won American Idol! From my point of view, people sometimes make their own issues and actually do more harm than good by treating themselves and families as “victims” when they are not. In no way, shape, or form was Caleb referring to anyone with any type of disability and people in the general population know it. Maybe there was some point in time, this was used as a derogatory word in relationship to some however, that is no longer the case and has never been the mentality since I can remember and I’m just as old as any of you I’m sure. When people say the “r” word there is no relation except for the connections you’ve made yourselves. When it is being used it’s actually referring to the negative connotation for who it is truly meant for and the truly ignorant, non thinking, and backwards people out there. People with disabilities are nothing short of of intelligent, wonderful, and people worthy of respect and love in my opinion.

    • I appreciate your last sentence. But Caleb’s comments speak for themselves. He called his fans “retards” for being stupid for choosing “I don’t want to close my eyes.” That is exactly the root of the slur: retard or retarded was clinically applied to those with intellectual disabilities and then society took the word and applied it to anyone acting stupidly. I expect had he used any racial slur or a homophobic slur Caleb would have given a fuller apology. He’s now got an even larger platform. He can still make positive change and take the pledge to end the r-word.

      • “Was” applied being the keyword. Decades ago. ..the question is by “who” was it clinically applied by and do they even matter. In my view, the tables were shifted in a good way in society. There will always be bad people out there that make fun of everyone. You’ll never get rid of them. I don’t believe he ever owed anyone an apology and he’s not one of those bad people. Everything in society should be taking into “context”. If we are too sensitive to everything that we can relate to someone with a disability, we’d come to a halt. I’m not making excuses, I guess what I’m saying is the best way isn’t to focus on what other people do or say. I’ve had engagement in my own life with people with disabilities. I find the best way is to NOT relate them to the “retarded” or label that people use or any old school term when it’s not truly related. Furthermore, I’d even ignore the term “disabled” as much as possible for instance. What is wrong with saying “Phew, good thing my family member is not part of the “retarded” group”. She / He is who they are and nothing short of a wonderful, intelligent person”. Every person has their downfalls in life. Who they are is who they are. Instead of bringing someone down by making them feel like they have a right to be upset and dwelling on their hardships, bring them up with a positive message and remind them of who they really are.

        On a different an interesting point I read. Would it have helped if Caleb let his fans know they were limited in intellectual development or academic progress for choosing the song? Clinically the definition of retarded. Fans are not known for their expertise, or knowledge or ability to understand what it takes to be a musician by they way. No more, than anyone else with a disability. What I know is that all types of fans love the music. Maybe that’s why they call “music” the universal language!! 🙂

        I wish you all well!

        • This comment is in the vein of some others posted here. That my desire for Caleb to make amends by taking advantage of his platform to say we should not use the “r-word” by taking the pledge to end the word is somehow construed as me making my daughter a victim; that the word “retard” or “retarded” is somehow not a slur against those with intellectual disabilities; and, that instead of Caleb doing something, those who object to the “r-word” are the ones who need to change. Would anyone make these same points if Caleb had used the “n-word”? Likely not, or if they did, they wouldn’t express them publicly. Because we, as a society, have recognized that using the “n-word” is a slur and when used amends should be made. It is not that I’m making my daughter a victim, it’s that I do not want her to be insulted someday by someone calling her the “r-word.” And that goes for anyone with an intellectual disability. The world’s tough enough; allowing a slur to continue makes it only tougher. On the other hand, Caleb had, and still has, the opportunity to make the world a better place by pledging to not say the “r-word.” That would influence his many fans and followers and be a positive statement. It’s not a bad thing for people to say, “I’m not going to use slurs.” It’s a good thing. It would make things better. Not just for my daughter. But for all of us.

  40. This is interesting. I see your point, but he wasn’t referring to mentally handicapped or challenged people as the R word. The N word is offensive if you refer to blacks…. the G word is offensive if you refer to homosexuals. But he did not mean it like that – he could not have used the words mentally challenged in its place because he was not referring to mentally challenged people – if he was then that would be unacceptable.

  41. anonymous says:

    I went to the American Idol tour last night with caleb family and beside me in the VIP box at a Down syndrome gentleman who is there as a friend of Caleb Johnson and he rocked out with Caleb and I can assure you Caleb meant no respect for anyone with disabilities and in his schedule he probably has not even seen this post I stumbled across it by accident Google searching something else


  1. overcoming ocd

    American Idol Caleb Johnson, you just lost your biggest fan. Here’s how to win her back. — Down Syndrome Prenatal Testing

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