The mayor of a small down in upstate New York used a slur against people with mental disabilities before Election Day, in an attempt to insult Democrats.
Mayor of the Village of Fort Ann, Denis Langlois, posted the following sentence, non-ironic grammatical errors and all, on his private Facebook page: “If anyone that I know vote [sic] for a Democrat on Tuesday you should sign yourself into the Mental Health unit at your local Hospital because you are retarded and need help, Vote Republican and ‘Keep America Great’!”
The post, a screenshot of which was sent to The Post-Star by a Fort Anne resident, prompted the paper to ask Langlois about it.
After denying he remembered posting it, the Post-Star said Langlois defended his decision to say it as a private citizen espousing “Republican values.”
“I’m not doing it as an official, I’m doing it as a person. You can’t quote me as the mayor, you can only quote me as a person. As a mayor I wouldn’t say that, but as a person who believes in Republican values,” Langlois told the paper.
It’s not clear what Langlois meant by his defense that a statement using a slur for people with mental disabilities is something that someone with Republican values would say. ThinkProgress attempted to contact Langlois and both the Town and Village of Fort Ann but had not received a reply at the time of publication.
The Republican platform in fact talks about defending the rights of persons with disabilities: “Therefore, we oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination,” the 2018 document says.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, the leader of the party, President Donald Trump, however, mocked a reporter with a disability at a campaign rally.
After defending himself to the Post-Star, Langlois then lamented that most people didn’t know he was mayor. “That’s the problem with America today. Everybody just goes around with their life, and if it doesn’t affect them, they don’t care. It’s a terrible thing.”
But some do care about Langlois’ comments and what they mean for people with mental disabilities.
“Mayor Langlois’ statement is derogatory, inappropriate, and hurtful,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which works toward disability inclusion, in an emailed statement to ThinkProgress. “We teach our children not to demean disability or any other difference, and we must hold our public figures to this same standard.”
Ruderman said about 20 percent of Americans have some kind of mental health disability and statements like this do not help the stigmas those people face in seeking treatment.