Will Media Notice Obama's Poor Taste Special Olympics Joke?

During his appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show," President Obama made a joke that may come back to haunt him, degrading the physical abilities of participants in the Special Olympics.

Obama's joke came after host Jay Leno asked him whether he had torn out the White House bowling alley given the president's past difficulties with the sport.

(h/t NB reader J.H. Blair, video courtesy Ms Underestimated):

OBAMA: No, no, I've been practicing.

LENO: Really, really.

OBAMA: I bowled a 129.

(Audience laughs and cheers)

LENO: Oh that's very good, that's very good, Mr. President (covers mouth and looks away).

OBAMA: It was like Special Olympics.

(Awkward pause)

LENO: No, that's very good.

Will this get much attention in the next 24 hours, and, if so, will it just get brushed off as another liberal's botched joke?

Stay tuned.

According to ABC's Jake Tapper, preparing for the worst, the White House is already in damage control mode. It released the following statement:

"The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. "He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world."

*****Update II: NYT's web-posting concerning Obama's "Tonight Show" appearance didn't cover his Special Olympics faux pas. Ditto USA Today. And AP. And MSNBC.com.

From what I can tell, of the major outlets -- not including blogs -- only the Christian Science Monitor and FoxNews.com covered this. 

Speaking of blogs, USA Today's "The Oval" reported:

The president also, according to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and the Associated Press, made a joke that seemed to compare his own bowling ability to that of a Special Olympics athlete. [...]

-- Obama recently bowled a 129 game at the White House bowling alley. "That's very good, Mr. President," Leno sarcastically said. After Obama's performance at a bowling alley in Pennsylvania during the presidential campaign, 129 actually is much better.

It was then, according to Olbermann, that Obama said the 129 was akin to a score in a Special Olympics competition. Olbermann, live on the air this evening, said his producers were watching the feed of the Tonight Show taping. The AP says Obama's remark was that the score was "like the Special Olympics or something."

Olbermann guest Craig Ferguson, of CBS-TV's Late Late Show, said the White House may want to beg NBC to cut that comment from the Tonight Show broadcast.

Yikes. Even Olbermann thought this was out of line.

Imagine that!

(Editor's note: The lede of this story was rewritten on 2009-03-10 to merge updates into the original piece.)

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.