The Virginia gubernatorial race took an ugly turn this past weekend when a prominent endorser for Republican Bob McDonnell mocked the slight stutter of Democrat candidate Creigh Deeds.
At a rally for McDonnell's campaign, Sheila Johnson was taped discussing the importance of communication skills in the state's next governor.
"We need someone who can really communicate," she said. "And Bob McDonnell can communicate. The other people that I talk to, especially his o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-opponent... could not articulate what needed to be done."
The video shows Johnson clearly mocking Deeds, whose stutter has posed an obstacle in various public forums during the campaign. After ribbing the Democratic candidate, Johnson lets out a slight laugh before insisting that, "communication is hugely important."
According to the Virginia-based site, Not Larry Sabato - which called the episode "pathetic" - McDonnell said nothing about Johnson's comments when he appeared at the rally later.
Johnson, it should be noted, is a prominent Democratic figure in the state whose endorsement of McDonnell has perplexed the party establishment. Her former husband, Robert Johnson, got into a bit of political hot water himself during the presidential campaign when he not-so-subtly hinted that Barack Obama's admitted drug use would be a problem for his election prospects.
UPDATE: Deeds' spokesperson Mike Gehrke offers the following response to Johnson's comment:
"This is a cheap shot and a new low for this race. Virginians deserve better than personal attacks like this. Creigh Deeds isn't the smoothest speaker in the race, but when he speaks he is authentic and means what he says."
FURTHER UPDATE: The National Stuttering Association releases a statement condemning Johnson's remark.
"[We have] a question for Sheila Johnson, who ridiculed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds' stuttering," the statement reads. "Do you also make fun of people in wheelchairs, or do you believe that stuttering is the only disability it's okay to ridicule?"
"The fact is that stuttering is a brain-function disorder that's mostly physiological rather than psychological, and is often genetic in origin. It has nothing to do with intelligence, temperament or leadership ability. Stuttering affects 1 percent of the population, including 77,000 residents of Virginia," the statement goes on. "People who stutter have succeeded in all walks of life and include actors (James Earl Jones), business leaders (Jack Welch), journalists (John Stossel) and politicians such as Winston Churchill, Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)."
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