Letter of Protest to John Shaffner, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences:
Chairman and CEO
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Production Design By Shaffner/Stewart
9080 Wonderland Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dear Mr. Shaffner,
The undersigned members of the Self Advocate Council of the National Down Syndrome Congress and the NDSC Youth & Adult Committee support team are disappointed and dismayed with the decision of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to honor the song “Down Syndrome Girl” with an Emmy award nomination in the category “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics”. As a result of the nomination, this hateful song will now be broadcasted to millions of viewers furthering the myths and misconceptions that those of us who have Down syndrome are less valuable than others and deserve ridicule and abuse because of our disability. It goes without saying that the academy would not be likely to similarly honor a derogatory and degrading song entitled “African American Girl”, “Gay Girl”, or “Muslim Girl” with an Emmy Nomination. However, individuals with Down syndrome appear to be a minority group for whom there are no similar concerns and who are fair game to be ridiculed and marginalized on television.
When the organization you head honors this kind of prejudicial materials, particularly on an award show that is meant to celebrate the best of television programming, it means that those of us with developmental disabilities will have to fight even greater discrimination. What you promote impacts us very personally. We will be taunted more and treated less humanely, we will struggle to be included at school and in our communities. We will have to fight even harder for jobs.
We ask you not to air this song. Although it may be impossible for us to prevent “Down Syndrome Girl” from being honored and performed at the upcoming Emmy Award program, you have the influence to prevent this from occurring in the future. We implore you as the Chief Executive Officer of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and someone who has brought satisfaction to millions through your exceptional production design talents, to promote positive portrayals of those of us with Down syndrome on television.
We beseech you and the Academy to balance this discriminatory song with the truth about us. Accurate information and our More Alike Than Different awareness campaign can be found on the National Down Syndrome Congress website at http://www.ndsccenter.org/morealike/flash/
We are real people with real feelings trying our best to live productive lives in our communities.
The Self Advocate Council of the NDSC
Pete Asplund PA
Carrie Bergeron NY
Jennifer Cunningham OH
Austin Davenport TX
Christi Hockel Davenport CA
Chris Devlin NJ
Jessica Green IN
Heather Hancock OK
Tracy Hile AR
Laurie Hobson TN
Lee Jones MO
Meredith Martin NE
Patricia Moody FL
Kristin Nichols OR
Melissa Silverman MD
Jeremy Williams SC
NDSC Youth and Adult Support Team
Andy Bean OH
Carlene Mattson CA
Claire Odermann CO
Mr. Shaffner’s response:
Dear Self Advocate Council,
Thank you for your letter bringing your concerns about the “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics” category to my attention.
First, let me assure you that the nominated song “Down Syndrome Girl” from “FAMILY GUY” will not be aired on the Primetime Emmy telecast or on the telecast of the Creative Arts Awards. The Television Academy is always sensitive to these types of issues and had already planned not to air this song.
Thank you for your excellent work in promoting understanding and awareness of the nature of Down syndrome.
Chairman and CEO
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences