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Special Olympics athlete takes Ann Coulter to task over Obama slur

Ann Coulter is one of a class of political commentators whose primary, if not sole, purpose is to inflame emotion, not inspire thoughtful discussion. She adheres to a tired, time-honored formula: throw a verbal bomb, laugh at the fallout, accuse her detractors of being stupid/unable to take a joke. Repeat ad infinitum.

But every so often, someone like Coulter draws the attention of someone who has the intellectual and/or moral high ground, and the result is the rhetorical equivalent of a nature video where the predator zeroes in on and eviscerates its prey.

Coulter's latest I'm-so-outrageous comment came in the wake of the final presidential debate on Monday night:

Straight class there, Ann. Anyway, the tweet (and its followup a few hours later, "If [Obama's] the smartest guy in the room, it must be one retarded room") drew the notice of John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete. A 30-year-old with Down Syndrome, Stephens has spoken out frequently on the use of "retarded" as a slur, and wrote an open letter to Coulter on a Special Olympics blog. A sample of Stephens' letter:

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are — and much, much more.

Stephens adds, "You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV." (Sadly, she can and she will.) He closes his letter with a high-road move, signing off as "A friend you haven't met yet."

The full letter is well worth reading, if only as a break from the unceasing negativity of the campaign season. Well done, Mr. Stephens. Nice job of taking the kind of positive, open-arms approach that's unthinkable to so many in public life these days.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-