Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Denis Leary apologizes to parents for autism comments

From The Boston Herald Oct. 28:

Comedian Denis Leary, best known for pushing the envelope of convention, apologized yesterday “to all parents of children with autism” after the mother of a stricken Saugus 6-year-old dared him to spend just one hour of challenging daily life with her son.

“I have nothing but admiration and sympathy for the people I know who are raising children with autism. In fact, they were the inspiration for the chapter I wrote about the subject,” the Worcester native and author of the provocative forthcoming book “Why We Suck” said in a statement to the Herald.

“To them - and to all parents of children with autism - I apologize for any pain the out-of-context quotes from my book may have caused.”

It was not a complete about-turn for Leary, 51, who maintained that “taking one or two sentences out of context” from the book’s chapter “Autism Shmautism” is “unfair and misleading.”

And though it does not appear Leary will take Jessica George, 41, up on her challenge to babysit her son Maximilian, the mea culpa is his strongest response to date to the growing backlash against his overall thoughts on the human condition due out Nov. 18.

“That means a lot to me,” George said last night. “I don’t have anything against Denis Leary personally. I think he has a good heart. He’s done a lot of good. (But) just because you don’t understand (autism) doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Liebergott, president of Leary’s alma mater, Emerson College, yesterday sent an e-mail to alumni offended by his comments on autism, saying, “I reject Denis’ unfortunate remarks, and I apologize to those of you who were justifiably shocked and offended.”

Leary calls “Why We Suck” a “Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid” and suggests “inattentive mothers and competitive dads” are throwing money at shrinks “to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons.”

But the critically acclaimed star of TV’s post-9/11 drama “Rescue Me” said, “It was never my intention to exploit the serious subject of autism. . . . . What I wrote was not directed towards children who have autism.

“I do not say in the book - and I have never said - that autism does not exist. In fact, the chapter dealing with autism in my book discusses the struggle of close friends of mine to raise a child with autism.”