The Arc Demands a Public Apology from U.S. Capitol Riot Attorney for Offensive Comments about People with Disabilities

The Arc is appalled and disgusted by the offensive remarks made by Albert Watkins, an attorney representing Jacob Chansley, the self-described, “QAnon Shaman” who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 with an angry mob. In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Watkins described defendants in the Capitol attack as “all f—ing short-bus people.” Watkins went on to say, “These are people with brain damage, they’re f—ing ret—ed, they’re on the goddam spectrum.” He has also made statements to the press that his client has Asperger syndrome, something that is not an indicator of criminal intent or behavior.

“These two sentences encapsulate the hate, discrimination, and vitriol that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have faced for decades,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “Make no mistake, this hurtful, demeaning, and unacceptable language is not a relic of the past – it’s still in the hearts and minds of many in our society. When it’s vocalized, it takes my breath away, because we have come so far with people understanding that those with disabilities are valued members of every community. Yet, here we are, as stereotypes and disgusting language are being used to defend the indefensible – an assault on the heart of our democracy at the U.S. Capitol.

“Particularly infuriating is the use of the R-word. The Arc has successfully fought alongside people with disabilities for decades to remove the R-word from federal and state policies, and from society as a whole. Unfortunately, the word is still used by those who do not recognize the humanity and value of people with disabilities and those who do not understand the detriment of their words.

“We also want to make clear – disabilities do not cause people to engage in violence or commit crimes.

“We demand a public apology from Albert Watkins and that Watkins takes the time to learn about the disability community and the impact of such derogatory language. We also call on the media to reflect the perspective of people with disabilities and their families throughout their work, but particularly when incidents like this one happen. They can accomplish this by interviewing people with disabilities and families and by seeking them out for information and education to inform their coverage. Watkins’ remarks threaten to deepen discrimination against people with disabilities. The Arc and our allies have fought too hard.  We are committed to moving forward and creating a society that values and respects the humanity of all people.”