Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin sounded off on HuffPost Live Wednesday about conservative pundit Ann Coulter's controversial reference to President Barack Obama as a "retard" after Monday night's presidential debate.

Matlin, who lost her hearing as a young child and talks with the help of an interpreter, described the pernicious effect such derogatory language can have on children -- especially those with special needs. Retard is an offensive reference to a mentally handicapped person, according to the Apple dictionary, often used as a general term of abuse.

Said Matlin:

I know what it's like to be growing up, called "deaf and mute" and "deaf and dumb." They're words that are very degrading and demeaning to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. It's almost … it's almost libelous, if you want to say that. And it's absolutely absurd that someone in the position that she has … to be able to use the R-word, and to refer to our president. It shouldn't even be used. It's such a backwards word.

Matlin garnered hundreds of responses Monday night when she first responded to Coulter's comment with several tweets on the matter:


Marlee Matlin
Despite our differences, it's NOT ok to use "R" word. Consider millions of developmentally challenged Americans. It's just UNBELIEVABLE


Marlee Matlin
And you notice I won't dignify the name that's trending nor quote the offensive comment. Though we consider the source, it must be decried.


Marlee Matlin
We officially have a bully on the political commentary playground and ti's bout time for this bully to be expelled. Denounce hate speech.


Marlee Matlin
Hate speech is hate speech. Pointing fingers, saying "but what about." doesn't wash. I'm a mom. I've heard it before. STOP the hate.

Matlin suggested that the behavior exhibited by Coulter and others is best dealt with not in anger, but with a stern and clear-headed attitude.

You certainly can be angry at first, because it's so shocking, that someone would use that word of all words ... [But] it doesn't work if you get angry. And it doesn't work when you fight. It only works when you learn to say 'Look, let's talk about things and just figure out what's not appropriate.' And this was not appropriate.

People are extremely opinionated. And people are entitled to their opinions. But we need to be civil about things, and we need to be adult about this. What are we teaching our children when we do these kinds of things, and fight like this, and call each other names. What are we teaching our children. It's embarrassing. It truly is embarrassing.

Matlin also called for Coulter to apologize, and told HuffPost Live host Janet Varney about the responses she received to her tweets. You can watch the full clip of their conversation at the top of the page.

Loading Slideshow...
  • "You're Not Black"

    Coulter told a gathering of gay conservatives, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/27/ann-coulter-to-gay-conser_n_740066.html" target="_hplink">marriage "is not a civil right -- you're not black."</a>

  • Occupy Wall Street and Nazis

    Coulter made <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/ann-coulter-occupy-wall-street-nazis_n_993744.html" target="_hplink">an analogy between the Occupy Wall Street movement and Nazis</a> in October. She said that some of the phrases used by protesters could have been said "before the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and with only slight modification when the Nazis were coming to power..."

  • "Radiation Is Good For You"

    In May, Coulter appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show to argue that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/18/ann-coulter-radiation-is-_n_837512.html" target="_hplink">"radiation is good for you."</a> She was responding to concerns about radiation in Japan post-earthquake, and told a skeptical O'Reilly that levels of radiation higher than the cut-offs set by the government could actually reduce the risk of cancer.

  • Coulter on John Edwards

    In 2007, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2007/03/02/10781/coulter-edwards/" target="_hplink">Coulter called John Edwards a "faggot."</a>

  • Obama's Cocaine Dealer

    Earlier this year, Coulter asked someone to put out an ad looking for President Obama's cocaine dealer.

  • Ann Coulter v. Princess Diana

    Coulter let loose on the late Princess Diana of all people, calling her an "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/01/ann-coulter-bashes-princess-diana_n_888647.html" target="_hplink">anorexic, bulimic narcissist</a>." Prior to that, she had called Princess Diana a "nitwit hussy."

  • Cenk Uygur A "Retarded Person"

    Coulter once called Cenk Uygur, then on MSNBC, "retarded."

  • Ann Coulter v. journalists

    In May, Ann Coulter told the crowd at an annual CPAC conference that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/13/ann-coulter-more-jailed-journalists_n_822533.html" target="_hplink">"there should be more jailed journalists."</a>

  • Ann Coulter v. Muslims

    Post 9/11, Coulter had this to say about Muslims: ''<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/09/opinion/bigotry-in-islam-and-here.html" target="_hplink">We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity</a>.''

  • Ann Coulter v. New York Times

    In a <a href="http://www.observer.com/2002/08/coultergeist/" target="_hplink">2002 interview with The New York Observer</a>, Coulter said she wished that the Oklahoma City bomber had targeted the New York Times. She said, "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building." Later, <a href="http://rightwingnews.com/interviews/anncoulter.php" target="_hplink">she said</a>, "I should have added, 'after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters.'"