In just one sentence last week, American Idol contestant Caleb Johnson managed to upset both the fans he relies on for support and people with developmental disabilities.
Asked after the show to reflect on how he felt about fans selecting songs for him to sing via social media, Johnson had this to say:
[Social media] gives access to a bunch of retards to talk to me, and ... I don't really enjoy having to see somebody telling me what song I need to sing ... 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.
Yes, he used the "R-word," a slur which enraged a large group of people in his fan base and beyond:
@CalebPJohnson I don't appreciate being called a retard. I was a fan who occasionally wanted you to sing certain songs. WAS. Bye
— Kyle Brooks (@Taithleach) May 4, 2014
As the anger spread, Johnson took to Facebook, offering an apology.
"For the record that juvenile comment I made in the interview was not directed towards my fans but to the wackos that send hundreds of hate messages a day to me!" Johnson wrote. "You guys are amazing and I cannot thank you enough for your support. Sorry if it offended anybody it was the wrong choice of words ."
Mark Leach, an attorney who has a daughter with Down syndrome, called the apology "mush-mouthed," writing:
Now imagine if Caleb had used another slur against a minority group: 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.
Leach has since launched a campaign to persuade Johnson to apologize for using the term, including pledging to help stop the use of the word, and to say he's sorry on live TV on Wednesday.