Putting autism in quotes


Nevada families touched by autism might have been appalled by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s lack of sensitivity when she placed autism between quote marks during a 2009 speech at a Tea Party rally. But Angle’s not alone in carelessly marginalizing the medical issue.

At the time, Angle was making the point that autism should not have been included as an insurance mandate in a Nevada law. She also questioned the need for maternity care for mandatory coverage by insurance companies doing business in the state.

“I’m not going to have any more babies, but I sure get to pay for it on my insurance,” Angle said. “Those are the kinds of things that we want to get rid of."

That sort of rhetoric won applause at the time, but thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s rapid record and response campaign Angle is paying for every biting comment.

Angle, of course, isn’t alone in metaphorically putting autism between quotation marks. Insurance industry spokespersons essentially do that when they weigh the costs of treatment against the need for early intervention.

The Church of Scientology, of which Angle is not a member, also puts autism in quotes. Its critics say Scientology doesn’t believe autism is a real medical malady despite decades of scientific and medical evidence.

Until now, Angle’s view of autism has been little understood because she’s chosen not to address the issue publicly and has become a ghost to many reporters on the campaign trail. Instead, her campaign spokespersons have called the issue a political stunt perpetrated by the Reid campaign.

Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy emailed some answers to my questions about Angle and the autism flap.

Does she believe autism is a real medical malady?

“Yes, Sharron believes that autism is a real medical disorder,” Stacy said. “Sharron defers to our national medical community, defined as the best health-care providers in the world, to the research and understanding of human frailty, diseases and disorders.”

Some people don’t believe autism is an actual malady, but more of a buzz phrase for any number of unexplained medical/neuro/psychological issues facing children and adults? Does Sharron Angle agree with that perception?

“Sharron does not agree with that perception,” Stacy wrote. “Sharron believes that Autism is a bona fide medical disorder — she knows children who are diagnosed with Autism and their families who are afflicted by it, and she supports a healthcare system that is best able to treat this disorder.”

Please characterize the criticism of Angle’s statement vis a vis Reid’s own track record on health issues and his own career in general.

“The criticism of Sharron was directed at ‘air quotes’ used during a discussion of mandates,” Stacy said. “Sharron Angle believes that Americans deserve the best medical coverage and treatment, and the real issue continues to be about the numerous costly unfunded government mandates forced upon Americans by career politicians like Senator Harry Reid through unwanted legislation like Obamacare which will reduce the level of needed care while driving up the cost of health insurance. As portions of Senator Reid’s healthcare plan became exposed last month, Reid’s desperate plan was to divert attention from his embarrassments by setting off a series of untruthful healthcare-related attacks to cover up his enormous boondoggle. Harry Reid owes Nevadans an apology for ramming his job-killing tax-hiking mandate that guts Medicare and props up massive new bureaucracies against the wishes of Nevadans who are already suffering under the worse job and housing market in the country, and Harry Reid is unable to campaign on his failures so instead he campaigns on a disinformation crusade.

Should she have chosen her words more sensitively? Any regrets about that?

“What is regretful is that the Reid campaign tries to twist a discussion concerning the high cost of medical care into a perversion concerning the validity of a very serious medical disorder,” he said.

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