Dear Joe


Dear Joe Scarborough,

Autism is not dangerous.

THIS, however, is.

Ignorance is dangerous.

Television newscasters diagnosing people they’ve never met is dangerous.

A father of a child with Asperger’s who would jump to the conclusion that (an obviously gravely disturbed) mass murderer is autistic is not only dangerous, but appalling.

Assuming that a young man whom you have never met (whom you presume to be autistic because he’s been described by other people who also have never met him as a loner) would become murderous because he doesn’t have (your definition of) a “loving family to support him” is dangerous.

Lack of support, understanding and compassion for autistic people – all of which are eclipsed in a heartbeat by the kind of fear that you have just recklessly promoted – is dangerous.

Autistic people are not any more nor any less dangerous than their neurotypical peers.

Jumping to conclusions which insinuate that they are can be lethal.

Autism is not dangerous. But words can be. Please, Joe, think before you speak.

Jess Wilson


— May the families of the victims of this horrific crime somehow find peace in the days and weeks ahead. My prayers are with them. —

P.S. I’d urge you, and anyone else reading along here to read the following posts. They are vital to understanding why this matters so much. Thank you.

Dangers of Misrepresentation

All I Want to do is Weep

The Unknown Why in the Aurora Killings

Autistic Journalist Demands Joe Scarborough Retract Comments Linking Autism to Aurora Shooting


If you are looking for a way to take action, Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg has started a petition urging Joe Scarborough to retract his statements. Please click HERE to sign the petition.

42 thoughts on “Dear Joe

  1. Our kids tend to be rule-followers. I’d expect our kids to be less likely to become violent that the average person. And thanks for jumping on this guy! Our kids have enough trouble finding acceptance, and this…ignorance causes a new problem.

    • Yes! There is no black and white with my Aspie son and I’m confident that even if he ever snapped in some way (God forbid), his acute sense of what is lawful would still somehow prevail.

    • I agree. Unless violence and murder were a normal part of his daily life, he would not to something like that.

  2. That was very well said and restrained. Unfortunately, it’s too late to unring that bell. Maybe, it will make him pause in the future. For now, we have to try and disentangle those concepts that do not have any relation to one another. What a shame.

  3. I hate to say it but last night I was watching a news report on him and I turned to my husband and said “Great, the last thing we need is to find out he has Autism” – They definitely portrayed him as an individual on the spectrum. My daughter who is 8 has violent outbreaks and attacks her younger sibling and myself and because she is not very verbal we frequently do not know what brings on such violence. I agree that it is wrong to assume that Autism is what caused this young man to mass kill but I don’t think Joe Scarborough is the only person thinking this person is on the Autism Spectrum. I had the same thought.

  4. Thank you for this, Jess. When he first started talking about autistic people being dnagerous, I thought he was just ignorant. When he stated that he has a son with Asperger’s, I was speechless. You have told him what needed to be said.

  5. Thank you. My family has dealt with this kind of stereotyping in church, of all places, and it hurts. Just because we raise our voice out of frustration of not being understood, does not mean we are going to raise a gun at our frustrations. Many people with autism are too creative, smart and caring for that. Embarrassing and confusing the culprit, now that is another story. Every time something horrible like this happens, I know who is going to take the blame. It is not just the killer.

  6. I am at a loss for words. I just don’t understand how someone who is the father of a person “on the autism scale” could think, much less say such hurtful things. This whole situation is just so sad, now we add this… Just awful… Thanks for at least calling him out on it.

  7. He has a son w/Aspergers…I’m going to assume he’s trying to make a connection (very generally) about undetected disorders & isolation – BUT how in the world, as a public figure can he not THINK he’s doing a huge disservice to his OWN SON or other people/kids in this community (in which he belongs). People without kids on the spectrum walk away from that statement with ‘if you have Autism you could be a mass murderer.’ and that’s horrific!!!

  8. Being a mom who grew up with and has aspergers, this is horrible that someone would state that! I am glad you are speaking out! Thank You!

  9. The fact that he has a son with asperger’s makes this even more egregious. Mr. Holmes suffered from severe psychosis and a myriad of other mental and emotional problems. Years of ultra-intelligent sick thinking caused this, not autism. You cannot lump everyone with the same diagnosis into one pile, expecting them all to have the same predictable behaviors and personalities. I was a teacher of special education, working specifically with children with all phases of autism and for the most part, they were gentle, sweet children. It’s a terrible insult to the autistic community to make such an inflammatory statement and quite presumptious. I’m sorry for Joe and his ignorance.

  10. Yes, of course! ::slaps forehead::
    If someone of a certain type behaves one way, then everyone of that type must all behave that way as well. Brilliant Joe Scarborough, simply brilliant. I guess from now on I can assume that everyone named Joe is a crap-tastic journalist.

  11. Thank you.
    We need everyone, EVERYONE calling out this egregious BS. Please. For the safety of Autistics in a world that wants to make us out to be Other & dangerous

  12. Thanks, Jess. I just saw this for the first time today and signed the petition. I desperately hope this works.

    Love you,

  13. 🙂 I’m diagnosed with Asperger’s (by highest level National Health Service practitioners in England) and I suspect James Holmes has Asperger’s and a co-morbid mental health issue. (And I detest his actions and can’t imagine being violent towards someone myself). But I agree – it is reckless for newscasters to voice such opinions when there is so much ignorance in the world. Though people often seem to confuse young kids with autism/Asperger’s with very smart older people with Asperger’s who just as likely/unlikely to go mad as neurotypical people – though they can experience a lot more stress in everyday life than neurotypicas. I like to think I understand neurotypicals more now than most neurotypicals! But I disagree on one statement – actually I think Autistics are less dangerous on average than neurotypicals!!!

    • thank you for adding your perspective. with all due respect, i have to ask though, what leads you to say that you ‘suspect James Holmes has Asperger’s and a co-morbid mental health issue’? do you know him? do you know anything at all about him other than what the media have reported third and fourth hand? i truly don’t mean to be argumentative, but it scares me that we as a society are jumping to conclusions about some very, very complex – and very personal things – with little or no information to back up those conclusions.

      • You’re right of course in that we know very little. But there is some logic that can be used. I am making an assumption that the authorities and news agencies are not part of some conspiracy to mislead the public – i.e. are giving mis-information. I mean – I am assuming for example that he has not made a terrorist or political statement that has been covered-up. I’m assuming that aliens aren’t real and that the cinema wasn’t some kind of incursion. So – first of all – I’m dismissing what I think most reasonable people would as fanciful and not likely.

        We know he killed a lot of people. We know he made no attempt to escape from this. When looking for a motive in this case the immediate assumption is psychopathy (antisocial personality disorder). Now, there might be hidden behaviour when young equating to conduct disorder or other indicators that we don’t know about – but unless there is (again) a conspiracy to to give us mis-information somewhere the things people say about him don’t seem to match-up with that first thought.

        Obviously an Autistic Spectrum Disorder cannot be diagnosed on non-detailed scanty information – and really Asperger’s can only be diagnosed with the understanding and consent of someone. i.e. only they can know what they feel and experience – even if the behaviour presentation throughout all their developmental stages can be verified as meeting diagnostic criteria. And two things seem to oppose the conjecture of this person having Asperger’s 1.) the long time spent planning the event – e.g. it wasn’t just some crisis brought to ahead with passion – there was activity going on for sometime with an earnest desire to do harm to others. 2.) I know myself to be completely non-violent – in fact I am overly sensitive and anxious, and compassionate and caring. Most people on the spectrum I know have similar traits Or at the very least they would see such actions as illogical and pointless. And also – he seemed to be academically successful for sometime despite insofar as we know no formal diagnosis (and the aid that can go with it). So he had some capacity for organisation, prioritisation etc. … but if he were very very intelligent and the social daily challenges mitigated in some way then that success might not be unattainable.

        Grrr – I need to go to work (well the gym first) else I won’t get any time to swim. I wanted to talk about Schizoid Personality Disorder – but wanted to go on to my experience of how being undiagnosed with autism in society can lead to low-self esteem and challenging behaviour. And then about schizophrenia (though it would be worth looking at other mental illness). Dispassionately – as the vast majority of people with mental illness don’t go around hurting people either and are not necessarily any more inclined to do so than those without. This is a very rare thing to occur.

        Ultimately – although I think it is dangerous for the TV personality to talk in such an offhand fashion, I want to talk about memes, societal assumptions, and the need for robust conversation free from prejudice in all ways! As society we keep thinking with emotions rather than logic. And that’s something I personally find challenging as I like logic free from emotional content as I get so anxious about emotional content and the challenges I have faced through out my life largely stem from prejudices within people who do not use logic! Irony. Most people use assertiveness based on force of personality to win their arguments, or try to co-opt similar sentiment.

        But anyway – I respect what you’re doing here and agree with the principle of challenging TV personalities as to their social responsibility and hope you don’t mind if some of the things I say are challenging/insensitive.

        Must go for now.

  14. Thanks so much for this post Jess. Every time something like this happens the media drags this out and tries to prompt people to start throwing stones. When the sad fact is the majority of these crimes are committed by “neurotypical” individuals. As you point out these are complex and personal issues, and throwing the word autism in the mix just adds fuel to a fire we don’t need to ignite. We as a country have to look at what is causing these actions and stop placing the easy blame. It is no one factor. There is no easy fix. It comes down to the legal system sorting it and we as a society being more welcoming and understanding. I don’t know if we will ever find out what caused his actions. Obviously he is a disturbed and sick man who needs help. The blame game is not going to help.

  15. I went to his facebook page and sent him a message directly. The following is what I wrote:

    As a mother of a child with autism, I am hurt and outraged by your words yesterday as well as your words again today. Yesterday you basically said that autistic children or withdrawn for society and thereby commit horrible acts of violence such as the one in Colorado. Today you state that autism is a terrible burden to our children. Autism is so massively misunderstood in our society that we do not need you linking autism spectrum disorders to ANYONE that without care of other opens fire and kills 12 people. An apology would be appreciated by the entire Autism community for your words as well as linking children with autism to being a terrible burden.

    Our children are misunderstood, stared at, judged and bullied enough we do not need someone with your influence linking them in any way to the terrible tragedy in Colorado. Please clarify and apologize to the Autism Community in a whole, the damage you have done may still be undone.

    Mother to a loving child with autism,

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