WASHINGTON — Combative US conservative pundit Ann Coulter came under fire Wednesday from a Special Olympian with Down syndrome after she branded President Barack Obama a "retard" on Twitter.
"Come on Ms Coulter, you aren't dumb and you aren't shallow," John Franklin Stephens, a soccer player and "global messenger" for the Special Olympics movement, said in an open letter online.
"So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?"
Coulter, 50, famous for her shrill polemical style, tweeted during Monday's foreign policy debate between Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney: "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard."
The remark was still up on her Twitter account Wednesday, along with another from Tuesday that disputed Obama's description of Romney's apparent policy flip-flops as an advanced form of "Romneysia."
"'Stage 3 Romneysia' - because cancer references are HILARIOUS," Coulter wrote. "If he's 'the smartest guy in the room' it must be one retarded room."
Stephens, 30, told Coulter that throughout his life he's battled a public perception that an intellectual disability -- Down syndrome is a chromosome abnormality that can bring on a lower IQ -- means he is "dumb and shallow."
"Well, Ms Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor," he wrote on the website of Special Olympics Virginia, his home state.
"No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much," he said. "Come join us some day at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged."