Retract your statements about autism and the Colorado shooting
  • Petitioned Joe Scarborough, MSNBC

This petition was delivered to:

Joe Scarborough, MSNBC
Joe Scarborough, MSNBC
Executive Producer
Alex Korson
Ann Edelberg

Retract your statements about autism and the Colorado shooting

    1. Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg
    2. Petition by

      Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

      Brattleboro, VT

On Monday morning, July 23, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC asserted that James Holmes is probably on the autism spectrum, and that autism would explain why he allegedly committed mass murder. These statements are ignorant and potentially damaging to people who already struggle against stigma and prejudice. There is absolutely no link between autism and criminal behavior; in fact, people on the autism spectrum are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Study after study has proven these facts. While people on the autism spectrum struggle with social cues and a variety of neurological issues, autism does not predispose people toward the kinds of atrocities represented by the tragic shooting in CO. People on the spectrum are fully capable of the full range of feelings, including distress at the pain of other human beings.

Statements like Mr. Scarborough's have the potential to cause prejudice and fear against innocent people who are trying to live their lives in safety. I call upon Joe Scarborough and MSNBC to retract this statement and issue an apology clarifying that people on the autism spectrum are no more of a danger to others than anyone else.

Mr. Scarborough's statement is below:

"As soon as I hear about this shooting, I knew who it was. I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society -- it happens time and time again. Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale...I don't know if that's the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses -- they can even excel on college campuses -- but are socially disconnected. I have a son who has Asperger’s who is loved by everyone in his family and who is wonderful, but it is for those that may not have a loving family and a support group and may be a bit further along on the autism spectrum, an extraordinarily frustrating, terrible challenge day in and day out. and so, I do think, again, I don’t know the specifics about this young man, but we see too many shooters in these type of tragedies bearing the same characteristics mentally.”

Recent signatures


    1. The Impact of Words Linking Autism with Mass Murder

      Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg
      Petition Organizer

      Today, Tommy Christopher writes in Mediaite about a woman on the autism spectrum who was told by her teammates this weekend that people with autism grow up to be mass murderers:

      "According to autism advocate Karla Fisher (who is on the autism spectrum, as well), members of the football team she manages got Scarborough’s point, loud and clear. Fisher, who is the General Manager of the Portland Fighting Fillies professional women’s football team, writes on her Facebook page:

      'This weekend I hosted my football team at my farm for a camp out. They asked me questions about my autism work and I told them that autistic people grow up to be lawyers and doctors and teachers and janitors and Moms and…. I was uninterrupted by one of the girls who said, “And mass murderers”. I asked her if she was kidding. She was not. EVERYONE thought Holmes is autistic and that link was connected very clearly in that room.

      This is real life folks and real bad for all of us.'"

    2. An Open Letter to Joe Scarborough and MSNBC

      Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg
      Petition Organizer

      I've just posted an open letter that reads, in part:

      "Nearly one week has passed since you, Mr. Scarborough, made the false and unsupportable claim that most people who commit the kind of violence seen in Aurora, Colorado are on the autism spectrum.

      Your statement was both prejudicial and factually incorrect. Not a single mass murderer has ever been diagnosed with autism. Not one. Moreover, there is no evidence linking autism to premeditated, criminal violence. Absolutely none.

      You have not set the record straight. Your employers as MSNBC have not set the record straight. Why is that? Journalists have an obligation to provide accurate information and to issue a retraction when they are in error. It’s really quite simple. What has gone awry at MSNBC that no such retraction has occurred?"

      See the link below for the full text.

    3. Reached 10,000 signatures
    4. Autism Society Canada strongly supports a public retraction and apology

      Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg
      Petition Organizer

      "The events of last Friday’s mass shooting in a theatre in Aurora, Colorado have been receiving much media attention. Autism Society Canada sends its condolences to the families and friends of the victims. We furthermore acknowledge the need for society to do all it can to prevent any such acts from repeating themselves. However, we object strongly to the statement made by Mr. Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, when he made an off-the-cuff comment suggesting that the suspect was possibly on the “autism scale.” We take direct offence in the insinuation that autism is linked to such violent behavior. This unfounded comment, made by a public personality who has no clinical expertise in autism, was highly irresponsible. Autism Society Canada supports the call for a public retraction by MSNBC, as well as a public apology by Mr. Scarborough."

      Michael Lewis, President
      On behalf of the Board of Directors

    5. Reached 9,000 signatures
    6. Statement by Autism Speaks

      Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg
      Petition Organizer

      Today's statement by Autism Speaks reads, in part:

      "We called Joe Monday to express our concerns about his comments on Monday's "Morning Joe" program, and the offense taken by the autism community. He invited us on his show any time to discuss the issues facing the autism community, an opportunity we will take as soon as we can arrange it. Many were outraged by the comments; Joe Scarborough issued a clarification of his remarks in a public statement Tuesday."

      Joe Scarborough's statement was not a clarification, but an attempt to deflect attention from his prejudicial remarks by suggesting that people had missed the point. Unfortunately, given the egregious nature of his statements on Monday, the point was impossible to miss.

      An appearance on Morning Joe by representatives of Autism Speaks to "discuss the issues facing the autism community" will not be enough to heal the harm done. Joe Scarborough must take responsibility for his words and issue a full retraction.

    7. Reached 8,000 signatures
    8. Joe Scarborough's Non-Apology

      Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg
      Petition Organizer

      "Those suggesting that I was linking all violent behavior to Autism missed my larger point and overlooked the fact that I have a wonderful, loving son with Aspergers. Perhaps I could have made my point more eloquently."

      No, Joe. We didn't miss your point. Retract your statement and apologize, and stop adding insult to injury.

    9. Reached 4,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Anne Cryer-whitehead MILTON KEYNES, UNITED KINGDOM
      • almost 2 years ago

      As a mum of a autistic adult, your views are offensive. You have no comprehension about autism.

    • Cara Igoe ROCHESTER, NY
      • almost 2 years ago

      We have been working so hard for Autism awareness in our community and now we have to work even harder to destroy this rumor-weed that you have planted! My daughter has Autism. She is also the most loving sweet dear that could have ever been given to me. She is amazing and changes my perspective on everything daily! Saying that Autism is the reason for violence is like comparing apples to oranges. Anyone can be a troubled youth, whether or not they also have Autism is inconsequential.

    • Carla Stevens SEATTLE, WA
      • almost 2 years ago

      Joe--quick! Read something!!

    • courtney ayling COLLEGEVILLE, PA
      • almost 2 years ago

      Are you autisic or something? only and autisic chilllllld would say something without know what it really means. I dont know many people or just blurt things out without knowing them. I do find it funn how MSNBC is standing behind this guy saying "yep, when you muder people your autisic haha" duh. Wow

    • catherine wilson SILVER SPRING, MD
      • about 2 years ago

      Joe: just admit didn't know what you were talking about! Those who watch your show deserve facts, not your "wrong" opinion.


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