Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Last week Sarah Palin appeared on Bill O’Reilley’s show discussing a crude joke levied at her on the animated television show - “The Family Guy.” For those who may not have seen either the show itself or the O’Reilly interview, here’s what happened.

In the animated show two Sundays ago, a teenaged character named Chris is romancing Ellen, his classmate. She has Down Syndrome. As Chris delves into Ellen’s background, she makes this statement, “My dad’s an accountant and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.” The fact that the actress who does the voice for Ellen, Andrea Fay Friedman, has Down Syndrome in real life complicates this story. In fact, Freidman attempted to make Palin the bad guy by saying that the former governor has no sense of humor.

In an e-mail statement sent to the New York Times Friedman went on to say, “I thought the line...was very funny. I think the word is sarcasm... My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life.” Not a bad statement for an adult with Down Syndrome.

Friedman’s plausible defense of the program is obviously self-serving. Unfortunately, she reminds me of a black comedienne who uses the “N” word in her routine; but would picket any white person who did so.

Even more ironic than the fact the Down Syndrome actress wants to secure her career at all costs, is the fact that the program was aired on the Fox Family Network. The Fox News Network has hired Sarah Palin as a commentator, and is obviously very protective of the governor. This glitch shows that the Fox News Network operates independently from its entertainment branch.

Before I go forward with my comments, let’s take a moment to define Down Syndrome. The WebMD says that most kids with this condition have: “Distinct facial features, such as a flat face, small ears, slanting eyes, and a small mouth, a short neck and short arms and legs, weak muscles and loose joints though muscle tone usually improves by late childhood, and below-average intelligence.”

For my money, Bristol Palin gave the quintessential comment on the matter in a statement on her mother’s Facebook page. Bristol declared: “People with special needs face challenges that many of us will never confront ... why could anyone want to make their lives more difficult by mocking them? ... If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed.”

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.