The organization behind the Paralympic Games is pushing back on President Donald Trump less than a day after he'd claimed it was "tough to watch" the Paralympics. After noting that a record number of people around the world don't find the Paralympics "tough" to watch, the International Paralympic Committee said Saturday that they hoped Trump would join the billions of viewers who not only watch the Paralympic Games but are inspired by them.
"Record numbers around the world are not finding @Paralympics tough to watch," the organization behind the Paralympic Games tweeted Saturday. "Billions of viewers now take in the Paralympics in hundreds of countries around the world. We hope the US President continues to watch and be inspired by the Paralympics."
Remarks President Trump made about the Paralympic Games on Friday sparked heavy criticism on social media. While speaking during a ceremony honoring this year's Olympic and Paralympic athletes, President Trump said that although he'd watched some of the Paralympic Games "it's a little tough to watch too much."
"I watched as much as I could," the president said. Trump also said he'd found the Paralympics to be inspiring. "What happened with the Paralympics was so incredible and so inspiring to me," he said.
But some found the president's remark to be hurtful and tone-deaf. "My 7 year old son has Achondroplasia, the most common form of Dwarfism," one Twitter user tweeted. "He is an amazing swimmer who we hope will participate in Junior Nationals this year for the Paralympics. He isn't 'tough to watch.' He is simply a wonderful athlete."
Others defended the president, saying he simply meant that his busy schedule made it tough for him to watch too much of the Games. "I was able to meet @realDonaldTrump behind the scenes. He was impressed and beyond proud of the Paralympics," Paralympic snowboarder and two-time gold medalist Brenna Huckaby tweeted. "I'm bummed people are reading so desperately far into his comment."
Although President Trump didn't elaborate as to why he found it "tough" to watch "too much" of the Paralympic Games, critics claimed his remark inspired recollections of a campaign speech he'd given during the 2016 presidential election in which he appeared to mock a journalist's physical disability. Trump has denied claims he ever mocked or imitated a reporter's physical disability, saying his imitation was of how the reporter "was groveling."
"I didn't know what he looked like," Trump said of the incident during a campaign rally in July 2016. "I didn't know he was disabled... He was groveling, grovel, grovel, grovel. That was the end of it. All of a sudden, I get reports that I was imitating a reporter who was handicapped. I would never do that."
Like the Olympics, the Paralympic Games are one of the largest international multi-sport competitions where athletes with a range of disabilities compete against each other in hundreds of medal events. And just as there are Summer and Winter Olympics, there are Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. The Paralympic Games have immediately followed the Olympics since 1988, inspiring viewers with athletes' strength, dedication, and perseverance.
This year, U.S. Paralympic athletes brought home more medals than any other country. Team USA left the 2018 Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea with 36 medals — 13 gold, 15 silver and eight bronze.
Organizers said Saturday they hoped that President Trump would continue to tune in to future Paralympic Games. "We're confident Tokyo 2020 will be the biggest Paralympics ever, breaking the cumulative 4.1 billion viewers who watched Rio 2016," International Paralympic Committee communications director Craig Spence told The Associated Press.