50 Cent has found himself in hot water. The rapper, who has a rather colorful Twitter presence -- and 6.8 million followers -- recently made statements that offended people with autism and parents of kids with autism. Given that new data shows one in 88 American kids are on the autism spectrum, that's a very large community to ostracize.
(This story has been updated. Scroll down for new information.)
The ugly tweets were in response to an eager fan who wrote to 50: "Release the album or get shot again." The rapper allegedly tweeted back, "yeah just saw your picture fool you look autistic." And, he didn't stop there. "I dont want no special ed kids on my time line follow some body else," he posted later.
Unsurprisingly, the twitterverse was horrified. Actress and autism activist Holly Robinson Peete, took to her own website to write an open letter to 50 Cent expressing her disappointment with his actions. Peete asked questions and presented the facts:
Do you even know what autism is? And what exactly does “autistic” look like? Do you know how wildly prevalent autism is? 1 in 88 have it. That’s 1 in 54 boys. Families suffer a social stigma you will never know. It is a financial and emotional drain for millions...
And then, she showed 50 what autism really looks like -- her 13-year-old son Rodney.
He is in special ed. He loves rap music and is a HUGE fan of yours. He’s a tremendous kid. He has to deal with so much trying to fit in. This isn’t helping.
At the very least, Peete requested that 50 delete his insulting tweets. He has obliged, but many parents in the special needs community aren't satisfied. One mother, Miz Kp, whose 4-year-old son is on the autism spectrum, is waiting for a real apology. "In addition to giving an apology, 50 Cent needs to learn more about autism and the families affected by it. Lack of exposure can also breed ignorance," she wrote on her blog, Sailing Autistic Seas.
Many other autism bloggers have chimed in. Jeannette, aka AutismMumma, wrote "autism is known as the invisible disability," and then posted several photos of kids on the spectrum. Babble writer, Joslyn Gray, who has two children with autism reposted a video she made in April (for Autism Awareness Month) in response to the controversy. In real life, the video says, those with autism don't necessarily "look" like Rain Man or Forrest Gump -- that's only what movies would have you believe. In reality, as evidenced by her 3-minute photo montage, kids with autism look like any other kid: happy, smiley and adorable.
Some parents on Twitter have suggested boycotting 50 Cent's products and music. But Phil Evans, a 25-year-old with Asperger Syndrome thinks the rapper's misstep should be used as a lesson -- "Think before you talk." On his blog My Autistic Life, Evans wrote:
"Offending those who have autism may not have been intentional but when thoughts are released into such a public space, always consider what is being said when people could be affected by it."
UPDATE: On Sunday, 50 Cent apologized for his comments:
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