Special Olympian writes open letter to Ann Coulter over offensive tweet

During Monday's presidential debate, conservative pundit and paid provocateur Ann Coulter said she supported Mitt Romney's strategy to not attack President Barack Obama. Or, as Coulter put it on Twitter, "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard."

On Tuesday, John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete, published an open letter to Coulter, asking her why she continually uses the "R-word."

"I'm a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public's perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow," Stephens wrote. "I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night."

More from 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 [sic] 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.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. 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.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Stephens concluded by inviting Coulter to the Special Olympics:

See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven't made yet,

John Franklin Stephens

Not surprisingly, the letter quickly went viral, garnering more than 10,000 "likes" on Facebook, 6,000-plus Twitter shares and nearly 1,000 comments on the Special Olympics blog—virtually all of them supportive of Stephens.

"Such a wonderful, courageous and heartfelt letter," one commenter wrote. "Bravo for standing up to all of the bullies that linger out there, waiting to pounce on those they perceive as different. You are a true hero."

Coulter, of course, is no stranger to controversy.

Last month during an appearance on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Coulter made controversial comments about civil rights.

[Related: Coulter: 'Civil rights are for blacks—what have we done to the immigrants?']

"We don't owe the homeless," she said. "We don't owe feminists. We don't owe women who are desirous of having abortions or gays who want to get married to one another. That's what civil rights has become for much of the left."

"Immigrant rights are not civil rights?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"No," Coulter responded. "No. I think civil rights are for blacks. What have we done to the immigrants? We owe black people something. We have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven't even been in this country."

And if you're waiting for Coulter to apologize for her R-word tweet, don't hold your breath. On Tuesday, Coulter criticized a line in President Obama's stump speech, tweeting: "'Stage 3 Romneysia'—because cancer references are HILARIOUS. If he's 'the smartest guy in the room' it must be one retarded room."