Barbara Walters grew up with a special needs sister, a family situation the reporter detailed with tenderness in her autobiography, Audition.
Walters knows the hurt of hearing a loved one described in unflattering ways, yet she still rushed to Bill Maher’s defense over the comic’s use of the derogatory word “retarded” to describe Sarah Palin’s special needs child, Trig.
The subject of Maher’s comedy choices came up on the June 17 edition of The View, and both Walters and co-host Whoopi Goldberg did what they could to defend Maher for attacking a politician’s child with a term generally regarded as offensive.
Walters: I’m very grateful that it has changed. But there are people who don’t know that, and they use the word retarded.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Do you think Bill Maher is one of those?
Walters: I don’t know, I don’t. I think that, you know, unless you’re a little more familiar, you don’t even know the term mentally challenged….Do I think it was unfortunate that he did it? Yes, I do. Do I, do I think he realized what it was? No, I don’t. I mean, I don’t think he intended it to be mean-spirited. He likes to take on Sarah Palin, a lot of people do. She can fight back. And she did. And I’m glad she did.
Later, Goldberg picked up Walters’ baton, implying it’s all right for Maher to use the term to describe Palin’s child because the word “retarded” wasn’t always considered a slur.
Goldberg: You know, I think that we, society took the word “retarded” and made it into something derogatory. I think we made it a bad word by utilizing, well because we turned it into, you know, something that you call somebody to make them feel bad, to feel different.