Donald Trump Backs off Defunding Special Olympics After Criticism of Decision

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2019

President Donald Trump talks with reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 28, 2019, for the short trip to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Trump is traveling to Michigan to speak at a rally before spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh/Associated Press

President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday he has ordered his administration to change a budget proposal that would have defunded the Special Olympics. 

"The Special Olympics will be funded. I just told my people, 'I want to fund the Special Olympics,'" Trump said. "I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics."

A budget proposed this week by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for the 2020 fiscal year cut all $17.6 million in funding for the Special Olympics, a non-profit organization which provides sports and recreation activities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities worldwide and partners with 172 countries to host the weeklong World Games competition each year. 

The proposed cut drew widespread criticism from both sides of the aisle, but DeVos said she was sticking to the budget plan as recently as Thursday.

"I love Special Olympics," DeVos said. "I have given a portion of my salary to Special Olympics. I hope all of this debate inspires private contributions to Special Olympics."

DeVos released a statement on the matter after President Trump's comments:


Sec. DeVos: “I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye-to-eye on this issue, and that he has decided to” include funding for the Special Olympics in the budget request. “This is funding I have fought for behind-the-scenes over the last several years.”

The $17.6 million figure represents about 10 percent of the Special Olympics' overall revenue. 

During the brief period since the administration proposed cutting funding, it became clear the budget would not pass in Congress. Both Democratic and Republican representatives publicly stated they would not vote in favor of the budget without Special Olympics funding, which is a minuscule amount of the $7 billion the Trump administration is looking to cut in 2020.