Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling should publicly apologize for a prejudicial remark that he made recently.
The chairman of presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s state campaign in Virginia recently told newspaper reporters that if people think Obama has done a good job over the past three years, they should vote for him — then “check themselves into a mental hospital.”
Bolling’s comment was meant to belittle Obama supporters by suggesting that they needed psychiatric treatment. This is the sort of mocking comment that increases stigma against persons with severe mental illnesses and also makes them reluctant to seek help. If you doubt this, substitute “cancer ward” for “mental hospital.” It doesn’t work, does it?
I’m certain that Bolling and his spin master buddies will claim that the Lt. Governor was simply making a joke and that anyone who says differently is guilty of political correctness run amok.
But words matter — especially when they are spoken by an elected leader — especially when they hurt people.
When the CEO of National Public Radio, Vivian Schiller, said that news commentator, Juan Williams, needed to keep his opinions to himself or share them with his “psychiatrist or publicist” she was criticized and forced to apologize for her “thoughtless comments.”
At the time, National Alliance on Mental Illness Chief Executive Michael Fitzpatrick noted: “Once again, someone has played “the stigma card,” suggesting mental illness to discredit a person rather than debating issues on their merits.”
The same can be said about Bolling’s remark. It was a hurtful statement and he should apologize.