U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos whose agency funds the Special Olympics, through widespread condemnation, she announced she was cutting nearly 18 million dollars for the event as part of the Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal. DeVos defended the cuts for the Olympics, a sporting event for physically and intellectually disabled people, suggesting those cuts might be made up through donations from the private sector. But late Thursday as he left the White House, Trump reversed course, implying he’d only just learned of the cuts. I’ve been to the Special Olympics. I think it’s incredible, and I just authorized a funding. I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people with funding the Special Olympics.
After this comment, DeVos released a statement, saying she was pleased and grateful that she and the president see eye-to-eye on the issue, adding she’d been fighting for the funding behind the scenes for years. That statement came hours after a tense exchange over the cuts between Davos and Democrat Sen Dick Durbin during a US Senate Committee hearing. Did you personally approve the elimination of the 18 million dollars from your budget to help the Special Olympics? No, I didn’t personally get involved in that… I want to tell you whoever came up with, whoever came up with that idea at OMB (Office of Management and Budget) gets at a Special Olympic gold medal for insensitivity to think that we can’t spend 18 million dollars to support this dramatically successful venture. I love Special Olympics myself. I have given a portion of my salary to Special Olympics. I hope all of this debate encourages lots of private contributions to Special Olympics. So let’s not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative. It’s, that is just disgusting and it’s shameful. Madam Secretary, let me tell you what, eliminating 18 million dollars out of an 80 billion, 70 or 80 billion-dollar budget. I think is shameful, too.
Since 1968, the Special Olympics have given physically and mentally challenged athletes in the United States and elsewhere the chance to compete in Olympic style sports and other games.
Jeff Custer VOA News, Washington.