|Stephen Hawking_Jane and Stephen with their eldest children, Lucy and Robert.|
Dear Katie Hopkins. Stop making life harder for disabled people
Thu 30 Apr 2015
My father is Stephen Hawking, and I have an autistic son. So it makes me sad when your ‘jokes’ about Ed Miliband mock people with disabilities
Dear Katie Hopkins, I am writing to you – not respectfully, but politely – to ask you to stop.
I read your comments about Ed Miliband and his supposed resemblance to someone “on the spectrum” just as I got home from a trip to Australia. I was there as one of the presenters of a show which featured my father, Stephen Hawking (I’m going to assume you know who he is) as a live hologram beamed into Sydney Opera House.
In my introduction to him, I said that I hoped attitudes to disability had changed since I was a child in the 1970s when having a disabled father was a rarity. We were openly and intrusively commented on when we went out together. We had many difficult moments, such as the time a restaurant manager asked us to leave while we were in the middle of lunch because we were putting the other diners off their food. In fact, it was like growing up with a whole world of people like you, everywhere, all the time.
The point of my story at the talk in Sydney was that I hoped that now, no disabled person would encounter this kind of behaviour – and that they would be treated with respect and dignity. It’s on YouTube; you can watch it and see how the audience responds.
And then I read with great sadness your “jokes” (are they jokes? I don’t even know?) about Ed Milliband.
But if he were staring at you, I presume it wouldn’t be okay, that you would make a laughing stock out of him. You would use his disability against him – and you wouldn’t care how embarrassed, hurt or distressed he was. Because it wouldn’t matter to you. Don’t you think kids with autism have enough to deal with already? Don’t you think that they already face enough rejection and social isolation with you making it worse? Do you really think they need you to tell them they don’t fit into society?
And when someone with your public profile tells others that it’s okay to mock people with disabilities, you cause enormous damage. The little work I’ve done with child carers of disabled parents shows what a vulnerable group they are, already regularly bullied and taunted by their peers. It just takes a figure like you to validate the bullies’ point of view – and who knows how terrible the outcomes could be. There are lots of kids out there with disabled parents or siblings whose lives just got harder because of you.
I don’t know what you are paid to express such unreserved and trenchant views, but it surely cannot be enough. Soon, the media spotlight will move on and your planned obsolescence (planned by media companies, not by you) will kick in. At which point, you will be left with no viable career and a backwash of hatred of a staggering acidity and volume.
To be honest, I don’t really care what happens to you. But I do care what happens to people with disabilities and their families, and I care that you are making difficult lives even more challenging. Please stop.