Denis Leary Tries to Defuel His Autism Fire

Responding to critiques of his new book's approach to autism, Leary says "entire misunderstanding can be easily avoided" by reading the book

By Natalie Finn Oct 15, 2008 11:15 PMTags
Denis LearyCharley Galley/Getty Images for MediaPlacement

Denis Leary is looking to rescue himself—not to mention his sales figures—from a firestorm of criticism.

In response to comments that his new humorous book, Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, makes light of autism or treats it as if it were an excuse used by overwhelmed parents, Leary suggests that those critics obviously haven't read the book.

"Or if they have," the Emmy-nominated actor said in a statement, "they missed the sections I thought made my feelings about autism very clear: that I not only support the current rational approaches to the diagnoses and treatment of real autism but have witnessed it firsthand while watching very dear old friends raise a functioning autistic child."

Per an excerpt published in the New York Post, Leary wrote this in the chapter titled "Autism Schmautism" (one of many chapters riffing on societal ills, public figures and his own upbringing):

"There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks…to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons.

"I don't give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you—yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."

An opinion that prompted this response from the Autism Society of America:

"For Mr. Leary to suggest that families or doctors conspire to falsely diagnose autism is ridiculous. Mr. Leary's remarks reflect the same misconceptions of autism being caused by bad or unemotional parenting that were held over 50 years ago, misconceptions that have been completely disproven by the scientific community."

"The point of the chapter is not that autism doesn't exist—it obviously does—and I have nothing but admiration and respect for parents dealing with the issue, including the ones I know," Leary continued in the statement he released today.

"The bulk of the chapter deals with grown men who are either self-diagnosing themselves with low-level offshoots of the disease or wishing they could as a way to explain their failed careers and troublesome progeny.

"Of course, this entire misunderstanding can be easily avoided simply by doing one thing—reading the book. Taking one or two sentences out of context— especially when it involves an entire chapter devoted to the subject—is unfair and ill-advised.

"Too often in this country, everything gets reduced to simple sound bites and very very often those sound bites are not truly representative of an author or artist's point of view."

All of which can be easily remedied by reading the entire book, Leary added.

The satirical memoir hits shelves Nov. 18.