A spokesman for President Trump’s reelection campaign on Thursday fired back at Democrats who have criticized the administration’s proposed Special Olympics budget cut, suggesting that abortion rights supporters cannot be “sincerely concerned” about the issue because they “see abortion as the cure for Down syndrome.”
For the third consecutive year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had proposed cutting the $17.6 million federal appropriation for the Special Olympics. The announcement this month triggered a swift, bipartisan backlash, including denunciations from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and other 2020 presidential contenders as well as Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Roy Blunt (Mo.).
In an abrupt reversal, Trump late Thursday afternoon announced he was rescinding the proposed cut, telling reporters outside the White House, “The Special Olympics will be funded.”
Earlier Thursday, Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign, had defended the proposed budget cut in a tweet, arguing that the Special Olympics “is a private charity with $61.3 million in net assets that gets only 10% of its funding from taxpayers and enjoyed a $1.8 million surplus in FY2016.”
But it was his counterattack on Democrats that prompted a wave of outrage online. Wolking contended that it is “the Democrats’ position” that killing children with disabilities is “just fine” and that their party’s outrage over the proposed budget cut was “so fake.”
“I’m sure Democrats who see abortion as the cure for Down syndrome and other disabilities are sincerely concerned about kids having the chance to be in the Special Olympics,” he said in a tweet.
Wolking later added: “The Special Olympics proves people with disabilities can live meaningful, fulfilling lives. It’s a powerful monument to the value of all lives — the same lives Democrats are fine with seeing snuffed out.”
Among those sharply criticizing Wolking for his claim were Democrats with children or other family members who have disabilities.
On Twitter, Wolking shared several news stories about Democrats in Utah and other states voting against legislation that would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if the woman is seeking one solely because the fetus has Down syndrome. Such measures have become a new front in the battle over abortion rights in the states.
The Supreme Court in 1973 recognized a woman’s right to the procedure; critics of the bills say they are unconstitutional and designed to restrict abortion, not protect people with Down syndrome. Down syndrome advocacy groups, for the most part, have stayed out of the debate.
Late Thursday, after Trump announced the administration’s reversal, Wolking insisted he wasn’t defending the defunding of the Special Olympics.
“I stated funding facts,” he said in an email to The Washington Post. “Nothing I tweeted was inconsistent with the president’s decision.”
According to a March 6 news release from the Trump campaign, Wolking’s role involves “leading the campaign’s aggressive rapid response team, refuting attacks and exposing the fake news media.”
Ariana Eunjung Cha contributed to this report.