Caleb Johnson ‘Retards’ Remark Spurs Down Syndrome Fan’s Dad to Action

American Idol 2014 finalist Caleb Johnson sparked outrage from many of the show’s fans after he used the word “retards” in a post-show interview last week. Now one of those fans is asking Caleb to show the world how much he really means his apology for what he said by signing a pledge to stop saying the R-word ever again.

Caleb Johnson

In a heartfelt message posted on his website on Sunday, Down Syndrome activist and speaker Mark Leach talks about how his daughter Juliet is a big American Idol fan. Until last week, Juliet was a staunch Jessica Meuse supporter. After his performances last week, however, she switched to Caleb as her new favorite American Idol finalist.

Juliet, who has Down Syndrome, asked her Dad each morning afterwards to watch Caleb Johnson’s videos from last week on YouTube. Dad was happy to comply with his daughter’s requests. But then he learned of Caleb’s stupid comments following his performance last week.” In particular, this set of quotes from his interview with AfterBuzz TV:

“[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.”

Mr. Leach said that “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.”

While Mr. Leach acknowledges that Caleb Johnson did later issue an apology, the proud parent called it “mush-mouthed” and asked readers to imagine if Caleb had used another slur against a minority group like “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.”

Juliet’s dad says there is one good way for Caleb to really show he means his apology and “win back Juliet and others” as his fans. “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 online pledge.” (More information on the pledge at

Even better, Mark says, Caleb should “take the next step” and 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,” Mr. Leach said. “And, you’ll win back Juliet as your biggest fan.”





  1. The fact that Caleb already had to make nice about the peanut allergy prank, his remarks about hookers, alcohol and cocaine and this remark about retardation shows us that he is an insensitive prat and needs to find another line of work. JMO

    • Rockers are known for saying things that aren’t nice, so he seems fine with his hoped-for line of work.

    • Agreed. What’s he already trying to be “cool” and get that bad boy rocker reputation? Too early to be counting your VOTES before they’re hatched pal! Hope he’s outta there, and that’s coming from someone who was his biggest fan. The personality has to come with the package, and he obviously doesn’t have it!

    • Being an insensitive prat has not stopped other people from being rock singers. It’s almost a job requirement.

    • Not every “Rocker” is like that. Anyway, if he is trying to channel old school rockers .. well, that’s came and gone. It’s time to move forward and stop trying to relive the past. He needs to grow up and stop acting like a 12 year old bully. SMH.

  2. Wow I didn’t realize he was this mean. Guess all my votes are going to Jess & Alex. No more Caleb for me. Sorry Caleb, but you are in the limelight and a role model that people look up to. If you didn’t want to be in that situation you shouldn’t have tried out for AI. Jess said very nice things at her interview! Very proud of you Jess! Keep up the great work!

    • Role model? Get real. I can think of very few people in the public eye – musicians, actors, politicians, etc. – who I would want to emulate. But that’s just me. As for the r-word, I don’t like it either, but I think promoting education and awareness after an episode like this would be far better served than petitions and internet hate. I work in retail and today I witnessed a customer on his phone, using the r-word several times regarding something or some situation. It’s possible this man is “mean,” as someone described Caleb, or he may be a wonderful husband, great dad, super co-worker, etc. Regardless, he’s a person in need of education about how words can hurt.

      • Quit saying R-word like it is a cuss word. Next we are going to have to stop saying the S-word, stupid. Get real and quit being a pansy

    • People look up to Caleb? You’ve got to be kidding. He started out the season completely arrogant, and has become just a little more civilized here and there around the edges. He sings really loud and puts on a show on stage, and the band likes playing with him. Other than that, I don’t see any role model thing going on with Caleb, so role model for screaming. American Idol material, he is not, if you are talking about someone they can trot out for interviews and all that. If he would just sing instead of scream, I’d consider voting for him. I don’t especially care what he says in the interviews. It was pretty clear that Caleb had no respect for his fans, so name calling shouldn’t change anything. Caleb is all about Caleb, that’s not new news.

  3. Although I didn’t like Caleb’s choice of words, and thought his opinion of the fans was more than a little harsh, THIS is more ridiculous. Caleb should not have to sign a petition, and we shouldn’t have to say “the R word”. It’s pretty simple, if it’s part of your vocabulary for whatever reason, use it in private or amongst your friends if you can’t manage to give it up, and avoid using it in public or on TV. It’s not that hard, I’m sure Caleb isn’t going to say it on TV again, regardless of his lackluster apology, and we can all go on living our lives. The world is far too sensitive. I had more of a problem with everything else he said than his use of that word, and while many others are offended by it, it’s not quite up there with racist slurs, sorry.

    • Obvioulsy you don’t know anyone mentally challenged, medically not sarcastically speaking. To me, it’s the same as racial slurs, ignorant is ignorant. Shame on you!

      • Actually I DO know several people who are clinically “mentally retarded”. I work in mental health. I just CHOOSE not to be as sensitive as some.
        So no, I won’t be feeling any “shame” about it. It’s NOT the same as racial slurs, and I’m sure people who have been listening to racial slurs 100’s of times over the past decades would be rather upset to hear you try to compare them.
        You’re the ignorant one, making assumptions that you shouldn’t just because others don’t have the same opinion of you.
        This is America, where we have freedom of speech, and the freedom to use it as we wish, regardless of whose feelings may be hurt in the process. Does it make it ok? No. Should it be illegal? No. Should there be a petition? No. Some people are offensive. Some are not. You still have to learn how to deal with it.
        If Caleb loses votes because of this, then so be it. That will be him learning from his mistake. A petition is ridiculous.

      • I had a Down Syndrome sister..and when ever i would hear one of my classmates or some person say she was the “R” saddened me so much.. How dare ANYONE call someone that word.. it is very insensitive..I just hope he never has a child that could be mentally challenged.. He definitely lost my vote..

      • For some odd reason, my response is being approved, so I’ll try to use different wording —- I used no curse words, didn’t call anyone any bad names… I’m sorry if you no longer have your sister, as they are precious. My grandson has a condition that begins with an A and is a very smart youn g man and he has his favorite stars. I’m not saying what Caleb said was ok, but I’m not judging him, either. Live and let live. He will pay the price for his mistake. He did apologize. We must move on.

      • However, Caleb keeps making mistake after mistake when it comes to words spewing out of his mouth. He has shown time and time again how much he doesn’t care about “fans.” Yeah, we need to move on .. away from Caleb and his nasty mouth.

      • I’m pretty sure that if he was insulting retards, they would not be able to understand the context or the insult. haha

      • Too clever and so true…. too many touchy people these days want everything to be perfect… well, it’s never going to be. Only Caleb can tell us exactly what was meant… but, I do believe his comment was taken out of context, as so many things written by the media are. We can’t really believe 100% everything we read. I’m glad Caleb won – he was the most entertaining of all the contestants for a few years now – A.I. got it right, for once!!

      • I think that’s the interesting point that’s being overlooked. He was talking about the twitter followers and NOT about anyone with Down syndrome, at all. There are people who deserve some names. I don’t think anyone thinks that your or anyone else’s family member is anything but beautiful and intelligent just the way they are.

      • What a lot of you guys need to remember is back in the “olden” days.. (yeah i’m saying im old).. that was the term used for mentally challenged kids.. the R word.. and back then people have always thought they belonged in an institution.. yeah, we may be touchy about the subject but there are reasons.. so why not just quit saying that word.. thanks!

      • How about you just let people say what they want and quit being outraged demanding apologies from people when they speak their mind. People like you are killing the 1st amendment in this country.

      • The fact is that he is being insensitive to others. It’s not just about people with DS. He has time and again made grammatical remarks that are less than favorable in the public eye. A person can only apologize so many times before people realize that they are doing nothing more than giving us lip service in their apologies. Shame on Caleb for his lack of grammar, instead of trying to be a singer, he should return to school and learn how to treat others with love and respect.

      • Oh lame and probably a lie. People like you just want people to walk on eggshells the rest of their life. If their point of view disagrees with yours then they are bad people and need to be fired. On top of that, he was not addressing retards; he was addressing morons who constantly tell him to play songs. Cry a river and get over yourself loser

      • Mentally challenged people are unlikely to hear or read about his remarks. It seems to me that it’s their relatives who are offended.

      • because now mentally challenged people are deaf and don’t watch television? -___-

      • Get over yourself. If one person is offended then that is too many… what sort of world would that be? Talk about an extremist. So I guess if i don’t like the way you look and it offends me; you need to apologize. This garbage is getting out of hand. Sorry to burst your bubble but the first amendment right is established to give people the right to say what they want. It is idiots like you who threaten that freedom. Just because you do not like it, doesn’t mean you need to silence the voice. part of the freedom is to protect the speech that people do not like. That is a founding principle. If you had your way, we would still be under british rule because we definitely offended the british we we sent them the DoI, but that is just too many. Grow up Loser

      • WTF? Did I just read a comment that said that Mentally challenged people are unlikely to hear or read about his remarks? I didn’t realize that so many mentally challenged people couldn’t hear nor read! Wow! Could you please provide me your statistic reports on this profound revalation? Seriously dude .. get a clue. Some people who are mentally challenged can read, and write, and even graduate high school and from college .. much more than the average american idiot out there who thinks that mentally challenged individuals can’t hear or read his remarks. SMH.

      • Most tards can’t read. In fact I remember one in my class that could only say, “haaay haaay.” Seriously these kids are a waste of money. I would have a kid like that put down for their ownsake.

      • I meant to say that his attitude about his fans stinks. He should be GRATEFUL. And his comment about looking forward to hookers and cocaine disgusted me. He is NOT someone to look up to.

  4. Compare each of the contestants AfterBuzz TV interviews from last Thursday. Each of the contestants is under the same level of stress as Caleb. Jess Meuse stands out from the rest with her professionalism and ability to think on her feet without becoming flustered. Not only does she have the talent, she also knows how to handle the media. Two important skills to have in the entertainment industry.

    • She’s also more mature than the others and obviouly been doing it longer. She is so happy to be where she is– I can see it… she listens to everything the judges tell her and she’s so down to earth and real. I’m so proud for this girl!

    • Alex as well. When asked the same social media question as Caleb, he said “social media is awesome because it allows you to… interact with your fans because they’re the only reason why you’re actually here.” Take notes from your peers, Caleb.

      • Caleb isn’t as savvy with social media as the others. He likes Facebook but doesn’t use Twitter, which is kind of overwhelming and often hate-filled. I think Alex is very talented, but I disagree with his statement about fans being “the only reason why you’re actually here.” Some performers go on AI primarily for the exposure, or the hope of landing a recording contract, not necessarily to perform for their fans. It’s curious to me that Alex would say this, because I’ve wondered for weeks why he’s even on AI – he has many contacts in the music business and could probably get a contract now, so maybe it’s for the exposure and building up a larger fan base. I don’t really like his style, but a lot of people here seem to love him, so more power to you, Alex. I prefer the classic rock genre, so my vote will still be going to Caleb – but I’m not taking to Twitter to let him know about it! 😀

      • There’s a difference between “not being savvy with social media” and insulting fans (as well as the mentally handicapped) who try to reach out to you using social media.

        And the fans are the only reason they’re there. The fans literally have to vote to keep you in the competition.

      • Embie, Caleb did not insult his fans. He called out his haters. And about the “reason” they are there… votes keep them there, but a singer may have other reasons than fans for BEING on AI. ‘jus sayin’ …

        I know you’re a big Alex fan, but you don’t have to respond to every post you may sense is a dig on him with an answer that could help him look good. He doesn’t need any fans for that – he shines all on his own.

      • Caleb did not insult his fans. He called out his haters.

        I don’t know, in the original interview video he said he was just sick and tired of everyone telling him what he should sing. He didn’t seem to make any distinction between people hatin’ on him and fans recommending songs for him. It was only later that he claimed he was mad at “wackos” who send him “hate messages.”

        I think he was sore that he had to do that Aerosmith song, that’s all.

      • He apparently missed the parts of the show where Ryan was inviting fans of of the show to tweet their requests to the contestants. He should have expected that.

      • Caleb did insult his fans on Round 1 when he broadly called them all retards. He tried to cover it up in his fake apology and turn it to make it look like he was only talking about haters. He didn’t want anyone choosing his songs for him, thought they chose a crappy song because he hates the Aerosmith number he had to sing, so he called them all retards. The apology didn’t remove that, and trying to say it wasn’t about his fans was kind of silly, they did want to hear him sing a song instead of just scream it. Caleb, Caleb, always all about him.

      • Not many people hated him before his insensitive interview. He was performing well, and was a favorite for a lot of people.

    • While Jess may be the oldest of the final group she is still wise beyond her years. She’s a class act and the judges have bagged on her for weeks and she just beams back with that infectious smile

      • Yes she does — she beams and she is just gorgeous…. There was no reason for the judges to give her such a hard time tonight….. she did great and outperformed herself… added movement and emotion…. I was happy for her! The judges were wrong!

  5. I don’t get it. I personally don’t see any handicapped people as “retarded”. I don’t think it’s associated the way this father thinks it is or very many people with exception of a few old school people with insecurities. I see anyone with down syndrome or anything else as just regular people. The word “retarded”, for many, if not the majority, is actually used for people who are either ignorant or not too bright because of their own actions. Everyone else is beautiful, intelligent, and accepted as “who they are”. Sometimes I think parents and opportunists like to stir the pot from their own deficiencies to get into the limelight and ultimately do way more harm to their kids and themselves by taking a victim mentality.

  6. He may not have used the right word, but people mess up. We not only live in the land of do as you please now, but people want to control what or what can not be said. I’m not taking up for Caleb, but do people really want to take a way Freedom of Speech?

  7. the word “retarded” is a learned word as well as the other words that offend some people. if this generation stops using these words, the next generation will not learn/use them. Let’s be sensitive to everyone and think before we speak there are certainly plenty of other words out there to get your opinion across.

  8. The little girl did not stop being Calebs fan because of his comment, she liked Jessica’s performance better than Calebs this week. Then when she found out what he had said, there was no turning back. With many of the disrespectful comments Caleb has made through this competition, he is in no way an “idol” of any kind, nor should he be. He needs to grow up.

    • Just because he offended one little girl?? Seriously?? He wasn’t even referring to people with disabilities and if her dad is going to let her watch youtube, then it’s the dad’s fault for thinking it’s ok to let a little girl watch youtube videos. They’re not censored.

  9. I think that word gets taken out of context. I’m sure when Caleb said it he wasn’t targeting people suffering from ds. So knowing that why would you take it personal. He was obviously talking about people on Twitter in general. I think it’s just another way of calling people stupid. What needs to change is people taking the word retarded seriously. When used you mean “stupid”. and I be damned if some one tried to taboo the word stupid. The fact that people haven’t figured out that “retarded” is just another way of saying “stupid” is stupid. Y’all know better!

  10. Sad.. sad that people are so overly sensitive to the smallest insinuations and innuendos. There’s enough drama in the world as is.

    Do we need to fill out a Hurt Feelings Report? (if you don’t know this one, go ahead, search for it on the web….)

  11. This is a singing competition, not a “who’s the nicest person” competition. All we should care about is WHO SOUNDS THE BEST. Sure, what he said was terrible, but he said he was sorry.
    This shouldn’t be a reason to stop voting for him.

    • I wasn’t voting for him anyway, but I have a family member and a friend of mine has a daughter who were. Yes WERE. I wasn’t influenced either way, but they were. Two fans gone.

  12. I feel like if he used a different word, not many people would be as upset.
    Seriously. A lot of people are too sensitive, we can’t cater to you just because you don’t like a word. The word itself has multiple meanings, anyway. Caleb probably didn’t mean it like that, he just meant people who are illogical, and couldn’t think of a better word. I blame society for constantly changing the meaning of words.

    • The N word has different meaning all across the planet do you use it? I dont because I know better its hurtful and stupid to say as the R word or any slanderous term. If we as a society get to the point where we slander those wh cannot even defend themselves what have we become? Anyone defending this Caleb dude is a lowlife for all Im concerned… Its just sad seeing so many of you trying to justify his actions . If he had used the N word they would have kicked him off by now but because it was only people with disabilities that the term is used to hurt people with its no big deal to idol or many of you.

      • No, it’s really not a big deal. People use this word all the time referring to idiots, not disabled people. Caleb wasn’t referring to disabled people either, so get over it.

  13. I just can’t sit back and not say anything on this one. Enough is enough. This young punk needs to grow up. He thinks everyone in the world loves him and everyone needs to bow before him as if he is some Rock God. Well, he’s soon to be singing the blues when he realizes that America doesn’t put up with hypocritical, pompous punks like him. He’s bound to crying like a baby when he is given a reality check because his 30 seconds of fame is about over, and at this point no apology spewed from his mouth will be taken seriously because over and over again, he’s proven to be an insensitive, self-centered individual. Shame on him, and shame on American Idol for allowing this to continue. I’m done watching this show and the people they cast on it. It should be titled, “Disgraced idols” as that is more fitting.

  14. why isnt Idol kicking this guy off of the show? what if he had used the N word? Its like they dont care about the disabled.

  15. If Kanye, Jay-Z, Diddy, or Snoop Dogg said this word, would you be attacking him as well? Cause I guarantee you wouldn’t have the nerve to go there. Why are you picking on an American Idol contestant. I’ve never seen such sad people in my life.

  16. I have a Mentally handicapped son…..I have always hated the “R~word”, if anyone says it around me, I get upset. The “R~word” is right up there with the “C word” and the “N word” out of respect these words as well as many others shouldn’t be used. It doesn’t affect people about any disability unless they are involved in it or have family or friends with a disability. Anyone in the entertainment world who wants to make it big should know better than to use slander against any form of disability. I was a huge Caleb fan…..loved his music, my son loves Rock N Roll too. BUT, you have lost our votes!!

    Caleb, at your age, you should have known better!!

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