Why It’s So Wrong That Donald Trump Reportedly Called Marlee Matlin ‘Retarded’

Celebrity Apprentice: Trump and Matlin seemed on friendly terms.
Trump and Matlin seemed on friendly terms. (Photo: Joe Corrigan/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has angered yet another group of people after reports surfaced that the Republican presidential nominee repeatedly called a deaf actress “retarded.”

The insult was directed at Marlee Matlin, the Oscar-winning actress who once competed on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. Three sources tell the Daily Beast that Trump “had a habit” of insulting, mimicking, and demeaning Matlin because she is deaf.

Matlin appeared on the reality show in 2011 and came in second place. On-camera, Trump regularly complimented her, but three longtime staffers who worked on that season say that Trump would often disrespect the actress and treat her as if she were mentally disabled — both behind her back and to her face.

Trump would often write notes while sitting at the table of “the boardroom” (the show’s set), and a person who cleaned up after the tapings said that on one of the pieces of paper, he wrote, “Marlee, is she retarded??”

“He would write notes on his blotter, his papers in front of him, and he would scribble notes in it,” a source said. “It was usually just asinine things on them.”

During breaks, sources say, Trump would often chat with his son Donald Jr. or other people in the boardroom while still wearing his mic.

“[Trump] would make fun of her voice. It actually sounded a lot like what he did [to] the New York Times guy,” another source said, referring to Trump’s mocking of Serge F. Kovaleski, a disabled reporter, last year. According to the New York Times, Trump imitated Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which limits the functioning of his joints, at a rally in South Carolina. “Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Trump reportedly said before jerking his arms around and mimicking his speech. “Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!”

Trump later denied that he had mocked Kovaleski. “I was very expressive in saying it, and they said that I was mocking him,” he said at a rally in Florida in 2015. “I would never mock a person that has difficulty. I would never do that. I’m telling you, I would never do it.”

Another Apprentice staffer told the Daily Beast that Trump would talk to Matlin as if she were “special” and was shocked after hearing Trump make an “insensitive” comment about Matlin’s deafness in front of her.

“She responded [to him]. She stood up for herself,” the source said.

Marlee Matlin on the set of <em>Celebrity Apprentice.</em>
Matlin on the set of Celebrity Apprentice. (Photo: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Clinical psychologist John Mayer tells Yahoo Beauty that the term “retarded” was used in the early days of psychology in rating a person’s IQ. “The use of the word got out to the general public, and because it described people with a lower IQ … it quickly became used to tease and bully others,” he said.

“It is a characteristic of us that we have no control over — our intelligence level is what it is,” Mayer says. “Further, intelligence, like money and possessions is a common, basic quality that measures people against each other in society. Thus the insult categorizes [us] as lesser than others.” Mayer also notes that those who use the R word are “typically more socially primitive or awkward.”

In fact, there’s a movement in the Down’s syndrome community asking people to pledge to not use the R word. Their site explains, “Our campaign asks people to pledge to stop saying the R word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people. Language affects attitudes and attitudes affect actions.”

Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, tells Yahoo Beauty that deaf people have been called mentally disabled for years. “Since the beginning of time, deaf and hard-of-hearing people have been mislabeled or mischaracterized simply because of the barriers that exist as a result of the difference between aural and manual communications,” he says. “Every group deserves to be respected in how they want to be identified and recognized, and our deaf and hard-of-hearing community is no different.” And, he adds, “the term ‘retarded’ is an outmoded term that is not appropriate to use anymore.”

Update: Friday, October 14, 3:30pm.

The Academy Award winner responded to the swirling reports on Twitter, with a pointed statement, writing, “As a person who is Deaf, as a woman, as a mom, as a wife, as an actor, I have a voice. And I’m using that voice to make myself hear…and vote.”

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

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