Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders made an innocent joke during Sunday’s debate in Flint., Mich., calling his political opponents “mentally ill” to Hillary Clinton’s chuckles.
But the joke did extensive damage, as mental health advocates criticized Sanders for poking fun at all mentally ill people in the U.S., and reinforcing the stigma associated with mental disorders.
One of the groups that were outraged by the presidential candidate’s remark was The Ruderman Family Foundation, which champions itself as the nation’s “leader in disability inclusion.” The group was appalled by Sanders argument to why he would invest in mental health if he was elected president:
“[…] when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in [mental health],”
A spokesperson for the foundation noted that millions of Americans struggle with mental disorders on a daily basis. So, Sanders poking fun at a real disability was “highly inappropriate,” the spokesperson added.
The group urged the senator to immediately apologize to all Americans affected by a mental health condition.
Sanders’ joke sparked outrage on social media, too. One Twitter user said he was one of the 18.2 percent of U.S. residents affected by a mental health issue, and bigotry should not be considered a mental illness.
Analysts recall that back in the nineties Ross Perot who was running for President as an independent candidate at the time had an unusual response to his critics who deemed his ideas “crazy.” He adopted a song called “Crazy” as his campaign song, and no one batted an eye.
Analysts also believe that if Sanders had also deemed Republican’s ideas “crazy,” there wouldn’t have been such a violent backlash. And the same would have happened if the senator had noted that Donald Trump might be affected by “delusions of grandeur.”
Why so? Because those statements are less offensive than picking on “mental health” in a broader context, analysts believe.
Nevertheless, the backfire was greatly exaggerated. Nobody in his right mind would insult the mentally ill during a presidential race, all the less Sanders. But it is worth noted that the candidate belongs to a generation that was less sensitive to inappropriate language as younger generations are.
You can watch the mishap here:
Image Source: Flickr