Friday, August 20, 2010

An Open Letter to John Shaffner, CEO, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

Dear Mr. Shaffner,

I read your "From the Chairman" letter posted on the Academy's web site concerning this year's Emmy awards. I am impressed by your description of the multiple roles television plays in our lives, and your respect for the craft and those who work in every aspect of it--writers, musicians, producers, sound men, engineers.

You say the medium can "help heal our spirits," and "gather us as one."

You close by saying that television can even participate in "the renewal of hope" by being "television with a conscience," and cite the examination of the "treatment of persons with disabilities."

I am the mother of a young woman who has Down syndrome, which, as I'm sure you know, is a condition that results in significant intellectual disability. Your organization has permitted a song characterizing Down syndrome in the crudest, most heart-breakingly offensive, and misleading terms possible to be nominated for an Emmy award. That song is "Down Syndrome Girl" from the show The Family Guy.

If this song characterized Jews, African-Americans, Latinos, or--God help you--the prophet Mohammed in like terms would it ever have been considered worthy of a nomination by members of the Academy?

Women with intellectual disabilities are the single most sexually abused population in the world, because they are very easily led into harmful situations, often lack judgment, and are unable to defend themselves.

Can you imagine a song about guys looking forward to a date with a quadriplegic girl, anticipating her inability to fend off her "date" for the evening?

Your pride in the work of the industry, and of the Academy itself, is misplaced if you choose to air and/or present an award for this song. In addition, you will have brought heartbreak to hundreds of thousands of family members, friends, and others who care for and love a person with Down syndrome.

Do we not all want to be worthy of the work we have been called to do? Please do not dishonor our children, the Academy, and your work by allowing this song to air on the Emmy program.

By all we honor as Americans, you have the right to do it, but by all we honor as decent human beings, we ask you not to.


Judy & Jerry Horton, Founders of Down Home Ranch
Kelly, Kristen, Kara, Julia, Mike, Sterling, Travis, John, Kyle, Chris, Alaina, Mark, and Matt, Ranchers


  1. Thank you Judy. Your letter brought me to tears in all that I am feeling about what others feel they have the right to do. We can only hope they see their way clear to take the higher road, and not the more popular Hollywood road.
    Tina Roquemore
    mom to Martha (13 w/DS)

  2. Thank you Judy! I'll write as well. I can't imagine why they would consider this song worthy. I admire your strength.

  3. I couldn't agree more. Surely, Mr. Shaffner will reconsider.

  4. Dear Mr. Shaffner,

    I wish to express my strong support for the message Judy Horton has sent to you. We have made major progress in the US in the field of early intervention for disabilities, including Down Syndrome. Such children now can lead rewarding lives as is daily demonstrated by the outstanding work conducted in Down Home Ranch. The dignity of these children and their parents must be of utmost importance to our nation.

    Please withdraw this offensive song from nomination for an Emmy. Many of us who are dedicated to improving the lives of children with disabilities and who are striving to help them achieve their full potential will thank you for your understanding regarding this matter.


    Emily Vargas-Baron, Ph.D.
    Director, The RISE Institute

  5. Judy, this is eloquently stated and needs to be read widely. Thank you for all you do at Down Home Ranch and thank you for standing up for something as important as this.

  6. Very well put. Our daughter Sara has attended Down Home Ranch camp for the past four years. As her mom I worry constantly about her being taken advantage of, and thankfully we have your camp for her to attend each year where I do not have to worry about her safety.
    I get that as Americans we are allowed to practice free speech, but I would think that as human beings we would also let our moral barometer of right and wrong guide our decisions on what to say or write.
    I am hoping that Mr. Shaffner's own moral barometer kicks in and he decides to withdraw the nomination of the song.

    Patricia Goins
    Sara's Mom

  7. My friend, a mother of a son with Down Syndrome just emailed me your letter, I also have a Down's daughter, a beautiful, sensitive 38 yr. I could not believe this and I am numb/nauseated after googling the Academy's website and listening to this horrid song. To think people would enjoy watching and listening to such cruel garbage is appalling to me. What kind of people consider this entertainment when it hurts and offends innocent people, plus people who love them? And furthermore to nominate such a disgusting, belittling song for an Emmy is unconscionable. Is there no sense of decency in film or TV anymore?

  8. My youngest sister had mental disabilities and I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of children/young adults with Down Syndrome. They are not to be pitied or made fun of. Unfortunately there are a lot of people in Hollywood that have no morals or care about hurting certain groups of the public. This just speaks of the immorality that runs throughout the people that are supposed to entertain us. How could they ever nominate such a horrific song?? SHAME ON ANYONE THAT THINKS THIS IS WORTHY OF AN EMMY!!