Another season of Big Brother, another bigmouthed contestant getting CBS in trouble.
The Eyeball is coming under fire from the advocacy group Autism United after housemate Adam Jasinski made an offensive comment about children suffering from the developmental disability.
In an episode that aired last week, the 29-year-old public relations manager from Florida talked about what he would do if he won the show's $500,000 grand prize. After noting that he previously worked at an autism foundation, he suggested that he'd spend his winnings on a hair salon for autistic kids, saying such an establishment would be a place where "retards can get it together and get their hair done."
The crack didn't go over too well with his partner, Sheila Kennedy, who chastised him for the insult.
"Don't call them that," she said.
Replied Jasinski: "Disabled kids. I can call them whatever I want. I work with them all day, okay?"
John Gilmore, executive director of Autism United, calls the remarks "repulsive" and "dehumanizing" and is asking that CBS honchos remove Jasinksi from the show, citing Don Imus' firing from CBS Radio over racial remarks as precedent.
"Racial epithets and other types of epithets are bad enough, but this is directed a to a group of people who can't defend themselves," Gilmore tells E! News.
CBS issued a response stating it's not responsible for views aired on the program.
"We certainly find the statements made by Adam to be offensive, but believe they were countered by the immediate reaction of shock and condemnation from a fellow houseguest, Sheila," the network said Tuesday. "Adam’s remarks would not have been permitted to air unchallenged."
Gilmore counters that Big Brother is a global franchise and contestants who have used racial epithets on editions in other countries have gotten the boot. Someone dissing autistic kids here in the U.S. should not be treated any differently, he says.
"There are a large portion of people who have autism who don't really have any kind of deficit. They can perfectly well understand what's going on around them, so it's not just people with autism can't understand what he said," he says.
"I've been with kids who do have autism who do understand what's going on around them when these kinds of terms are used, and it's really incredibly hurtful. These kids have enough issues at it is," Gilmore continues.
"And the fact that he claims to have worked with people with autism and he uses terms like this to refer to them, I find it hard to believe."
A cursory Google search turns up only one link to Jasinksi and any volunteer work, something called the United Autism Foundation (www.uniaf.org). The site doesn't feature any information on autism and instead is plastered with several pictures of the Big Brother contestant and the proclamation: "Adam Jasinski and the United Autism Foundation are committed to help special children & change lives.
"It is the focus for Adam Jasinski to improvement our society today and secure a better future for our children tomorrow."
The site also has a section offering "limited quantity" T-shirts, bumper stickers, air balloons and other paraphernalia to "support Adam" and help "special needs children."
The blog mindlessmommy.com has reported that the Website was only registered last December, just before Jasinski's stint on Big Brother was about to begin.
This isn't the first time CBS has faced controversy over the candid-camera reality show. On last season's Big Brother 8, Amber Siyavus was blasted by the Anti-Defamation League for her anti-Semitic comments. CBS issued a statement saying it found Siyavus' remarks offensive and said they would be edited out of future broadcasts, but declined to remove her from the house.
In 2001, CBS kicked out Big Brother 2 participant Justin Sedik after he held a throat to a fellow housemate's throat, supposedly as a "joke"; during the run of Big Brother 4 in 2003, Scott Wientraub was ejected after throwing furniture and screaming obscenities at his fellow contestants.
Autism has made an appearance in reality programming before. The most recent season of the CW's America's Next Top Model featured Heather Kuzmich, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.