“Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger opened up about the “anguish” of having a childhood stutter to chastise Lara Trump after she appeared to mock former Vice President Joe Biden for having a speech impediment.
“Grow up” and “show some decency,” wrote Sullenberger, a retired pilot, Air Force veteran and former Danville resident, in an op-ed published in The New York Times Saturday. Sullenberger was responding to comments that Lara Trump made about Biden at a campaign event in Washington D.C. for President Donald Trump, her father-in-law.
“I feel kind of sad for Biden,” Lara Trump can be heard saying in a video clip recorded by Vox journalist Aaron Rupar. “I’m supposed to want him to fail at every turn, but every time he comes onstage or they turn to him, I’m like, ‘Joe can you get it out? Let’s get the words out Joe.’”
Here’s @LaraLeaTrump at Trump event in Iowa mocking Biden for stuttering: “I feel kind of sad for Biden … I’m supposed to want him to fail at every turn, but every time they turn to him I’m like, ‘Joe can you get it out? Let’s get the words out Joe.’” pic.twitter.com/0inN9wXYJF
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 17, 2020
Biden, a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November, has spoken openly about his lifelong experiences with a stutter.
Sullenberger, who became famous in 2009 for saving the lives of everyone on board his U.S. Airways flight plane by landing it in the Hudson River, wrote about the “pain and humiliation” that came from having a stutter as a boy and not being able “to get the words out.”
“I remember vividly the anguish of being called on in grade school, knowing that I was going to have a hard time getting the words out; that my words could not keep up with my mind, and they would often come out jumbled,” wrote Sullenberger
“My neck and face would quickly begin to flush a bright red, the searing heat rising all the way to the top of my head; every eye in the room on me; the intense and painful humiliation, and bullying that would follow, all because of my inability to get the words out,” continued Sullenberger, who now speaks nationally on public safety.
Hearing Lara Trump’s comments at the Thursday event caused those memories to rush back, Sullenberger wrote. Lara Trump is married to Donald Trump’s second son Eric Trump and is an adviser to his re-election campaign. Sullenberger disclosed that he had attended a fundraiser for Biden’s campaign, but insisted that “this issue goes beyond politics.”
Sullenberger decried the “culture of cruelty” represented by Lara Trump’s remarks. He emphasized it could be detrimental to the self-esteem of children with speech impediments to hear the daughter-in-law of the president ridiculing another public figure who stutters.
“What might a child who stutters, as I did, feel when they hear a grown-up on a public stage trying to make a bunch of other adults laugh by ridiculing a public figure who also stutters?” Sullenberger wrote. He said that people who lack “decency” and who can’t refrain from ridiculing others “have no place in public life.”
Sullenberger also wrote how he worked hard to overcome his stutter and said it didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams of becoming a pilot and eventually joining the Air Force. It also didn’t stop him from safely landing his plane in the Hudson River in January 2009. “My words came out with precision and control, even in the stress of a life-threatening emergency,” he wrote.
Sullenberger concluded his piece by encouraging children with speech impediments to feel they can pursue their goals in life.
“You can do any job you dream of when you grow up,” he said. “You can be a pilot who lands your plane on a river and helps save lives, or a president who treats people with respect, rather than making fun of them.”
Prior to Sullenberger’s op-ed being published, Lara Trump took to Twitter to deny she had made fun of Biden’s stutter and blamed the uproar over her remarks to “egregious reporting we see every day in the mainstream media.”
“Anyone who takes 10 seconds to watch what I actually said can clearly see that I never mention a stutter — didn’t even know he had one — but they can’t help themselves,” Lara Trump wrote in a tweet Friday.
Yet another example of the egregious reporting we see every day in the mainstream media. Anyone who takes 10 seconds to watch what I actually said can clearly see that I never mention a stutter — didn’t even know he had one — but they can’t help themselves https://t.co/i7oyVR6xlp
— Lara Trump (@LaraLeaTrump) January 18, 2020
But people pushed back on her claim that she didn’t know about Biden’s stutter by pointing out that Fox News aired montages of Biden stuttering on the debate stage in December. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former White House press secretary, also made news in December for posting a tweet mocking Biden’s stutter. She later was forced to delete the tweet and apologize, The Guardian reported.
“Your denial holds no water,” someone tweeted to Lara Trump. “In other words, you’re lying in order to get away with your insult. God knows you married into the right family.”
On Sunday, Biden responded to Sullenberger’s piece by thanking him for sharing his story.
“There’s a lot of kids who I bet needed to hear it. Being different isn’t a barrier to success,” the presidential candidate wrote. “It can give you the strength to save lives in a crash landing — or even run for President.”
Thank you @Captsully for sharing your story. There’s a lot of kids who I bet needed to hear it.
Being different isn’t a barrier to success. It can give you the strength to save lives in a crash landing — or even run for President. https://t.co/0sYl6VhJyr
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) January 19, 2020