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.”
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