Pennsylvania GOP official Jim Roddey is apologizing for making a joke calling President Obama supporters "mentally retarded."
Roddey, chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party, is being dogged by an ill-fated joke he made while emceeing at Rep. Randy Vulakovich's election night victory party Tuesday night. While warming up the crowd, which was put on in honor of Vulakovich's win in a special election to fill a vacated state Senate seat, Roddey congratulated Vulakovich on his margin of victory. He then tried to be funny.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roddey recounted a situation which he said "embarrassed" him. "I was in this parking lot and there was a man looking for a space to park, and I found a space for him. And I felt badly. He looked like he was sort of in distress. And I said, 'Sir, here's a place.' And he said, 'That's a handicapped space.' I said, 'Oh I'm so sorry, I saw that Obama sticker and I thought you were mentally retarded," Roddey reportedly told the room of 300 people.
While his joke was received with applause at the time, controversy erupted as soon as the Post-Gazette publicized the incident on Aug. 7. Local Democratic Chairwoman Nancy Mills went so far as to ask for Roddey's resignation.
In a comment today, Roddey called his remarks "regrettable."
"I have a long record of supporting people with disabilities and should have remembered that before I spoke," he said. "My remarks were inappropriate and I apologize." He also indicated that he had no intentions of resigning, calling Mills' remarks "also regrettable."
Roddey was criticized by Spread the Word to End the Word, an advocacy group that raises consciousness about using words like "retard" and "retarded."
"We were disappointed to learn of Allegheny County's GOP chair Jim Roddey's poor choice to target people with intellectual disabilities in the punch line of a joke. We were even more disappointed to learn that as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a room full of 300 people 'hollered and clapped' in approval of the joke," the statement reads. "While we acknowledge Mr. Roddey has since apologized, it does not take away the sting of a room full of people laughing when he chose to put political discourse ahead of the value of human dignity."
Roddey did not immediately respond to requests for comment.