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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Rosie O’Donnell’s ‘little people’ comments call for an apology

    Rosie O’Donnell is the new puppy that ruined Oprah Winfrey’s carpet.
    “The Rosie Show” — one of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s youngest programs — made a mess of itself when O’Donnell divulged her “phobia of little people,” in an episode earlier this month. She said she inherited her phobia from her “Nana,” who was afraid of the “Wizard of Oz” munchkins.
    O’Donnell, with guest Chelsea Handler, crossed the line into discrimination in their conversation about dwarfs.
    “I’m a little ashamed about it (but) I have a mild fear or anxiety around little people,” O’Donnell said during the show. She then asked Handler, “Would you ever do a little person?”
    “No, that would be child abuse,” Handler replied. “I’d never do that.”
    The conversation didn’t get any better from there.
    Even though Handler frequents this territory as a ball-busting comedian with jokes geared toward all different races, shapes and sizes, it doesn’t make her openly referring to people with dwarfism as “children” or “nuggets” acceptable. However, it’s almost what viewers of Handler have come to expect from her, especially because of Chuy, her now nationally recognized dwarf, who regularly stars on “Chelsea Lately” and “After Lately.”
    As for O’Donnell, her phobia comments have outraged the dwarf community. Not only were her comments highly offensive, but they were also said in the most inappropriate place possible — Winfrey’s house. Winfrey made her career out of being one of the most accepting and empathetic people on television. To have O’Donnell make these types of offensive comments on her network goes against everything Winfrey stands for.
    Besides, O’Donnell should know better. As an out and proud lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist, she knows how if feels to be a target.
    Lawmakers are constantly trying to infringe on her rights and the rights of others because of their sexuality, and O’Donnell has become a strong advocate against intolerance and homophobia since she came out.
    “We’re a backwards nation in many ways,” O’Donnell said in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan in January, while discussing the anti-gay rhetoric of some 2012 Republican campaigns. “That’s one of the ways most evident nowadays especially with the election — to think you can turn on the presidential debate and you can have people actually say they think being gay is wrong is shocking in 2012. It’s shocking to me.”
    But O’Donnell compromises her ability to speak out if she participates in such hurtful nonsense against another group.
    When O’Donnell expressed her phobia of dwarfs, she openly discriminated against a group of people because of their genetics, which isn’t much different from what gay rights opponents do. Since the episode aired, the dwarf community, including reality TV stars Matt and Amy Roloff (the subjects of TLC’s “Little People, Big World”) have criticized O’Donnell. She later apologized via Twitter, tweeting at Amy Roloff that, “I am sorry my words hurt u and made u sad — they were ineloquently phrased — I apologize and am pained at my own inadequacy.”
    It’s a start, but not a legitimate apology. O’Donnell needs to apologize, sincerely and off Twitter, to the dwarf community.
    When we have lawmakers attempting to silence people on the basis of intolerance, then we need people with big voices, big personalities and big audiences to speak up. We need people like O’Donnell. She needs to use her platform and outspoken personality to promote tolerance instead of fueling fear and hatred.

    — Kelly Hultgren is a junior studying journalism and communication. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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