Presidential blunder on Tonight Show

President Obama chats with "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno.
President Obama chats with "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says President Barack Obama realizes his talk show quip about the Special Olympics was a "thoughtless joke" and the group's athletes deserve better.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday dealt with the fallout from Obama's appearance on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show."

In his bantering with the host, the president equated his bowling skills with the Special Olympics.

Recognizing his blunder, Obama apologized to the chairman of the Special Olympics before the show aired.

Gibbs said the president believes that the Special Olympics are "a triumph of the human spirit."

Gibbs added that Obama "understands that they deserve a lot better than the thoughtless joke that he made last night."


The top bowler for the Special Olympics looks forward to meeting President Barack Obama in an alley. "He bowled a 129. I bowl a 300. I could beat that score easily," Michigan's Kolan McConiughey (KO-lahn Mc-KAHNA-he) told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

McConiughey, who is mentally disabled, is just the bowler for the job. He's bowled five perfect games since 2005. The 35-year-old McConiughey has been bowling since he was 8 or 9. His advice for Obama? Practice every day.


Nielsen is giving high approval ratings to the President's late night appearance. Obama's visit with Jay Leno, the first by a sitting president, scored an 11.2 rating in metered-market households.

That's the highest number since January 2005, when "Tonight" paid tribute to the late Johnny Carson.

The last time "Tonight" logged a higher rating was following the "Seinfeld" finale in May 1998.

Thursday's telecast nearly tripled show's season-average 3.9 household rating.

These preliminary numbers measure Nielsen households in 56 U.S. markets.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)