July 27, 2008 — -- Michael Savage -- one of the most popular talk show hosts in the nation -- is used to controversy. It's been one week since Savage made controversial remarks about autism, referring to those diagnosed with the condition as "brats, idiots, and morons."
Several big advertisers have pulled their commercials from the syndicated "Savage Nation" radio show, and now, thousands of parents and protesters are urging Savage to step down, calling his words "hate speech."
"I'll tell you what autism is," Savage told his audience on July 16. "In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is." The talk show host also said, "Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."
The conservative shock jock's comments sent shock waves through the autism community. Parents and autism activists staged rallies in protest in New York and San Francisco.
"We are here to call for the firing of Michael Savage. For his truly hurtful, outrageous and inaccurate statements," said one protester.
And the backlash didn't stop there. Sponsors of Savage's radio show, such as AFLAC Insurance and Home Depot, have pulled their advertisements. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus gave $25 million for the creation of Autism Speaks, in 2005, and sits on the group's board of directors.
Savage's syndicator, Talk Radio Network, issued a statement in his support: "The network is satisfied that he did not mean any disrespect to autistic children or their families, but was, instead, reiterating his longstanding concerns on public health issues."
Savage continues to defend his position that the medical community over-diagnoses autism in children. But medical experts contend that autism is actually under-diagnosed, with about 1 in 150 children suffering from the disorder.
"Good Morning America" spoke with Evelyn Ain, president of Autism United, a group spearheading the boycott of Savage's program. She is also the mother of an 8-year-old son who has autism.
When asked what she would say to Savage if she met him, Ain replied, "He should have apologized. I don't think he understands how -- what a big impact he's had on families and children. Autism is one of the most vulnerable populations out there.
"50 percent of the children that have autism can't speak. They can't verbalize their needs. ... We don't need anybody, basically, you know, a bus matron, for example, taking advantage of our children and maybe trying to discipline the children on a bus, because thinking that what Michael Savage said, that's what these kids need," Ain said.
Autism United plans a Sunday protest outside Savage's San Francisco KNEW studio. Ain just may get her chance to tell him what she thinks.