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