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.
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 R-Word.org.)
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.”