A couple from Gilbert are at the center of an online controversy after posting a video that appeared to mock people with disabilities.
As BuzzFeed News explains, Bobby and Taya Budenbender are top sellers for LuLaRoe, which is essentially a multilevel marketing scheme selling colorful leggings and other comfortable clothing:
Last week, Bobby Budenbender did a live LuLaRoe sale, a common way the company's online retailers sell their products. In the video, he makes fun of himself by mocking a person with mental disabilities, in a way many people say seems to specifically mock people with Down syndrome.
"Hi, my name is Robert and I'm special," he said.
That video has since been deleted.
After receiving a flood of well-deserved criticism, the Budenbenders posted a 16-minute apology filmed with Taya's sister, Anisa, who has Down syndrome.
In the apology video, Bobby talks about how he much likes to take Anisa out for cheeseburgers and Dr. Peppers. He also talks about how he'd always imagined he'd have "a Down syndrome" in his family, but wasn't sure how that would happen.
"I clearly love my sister-in-law," he says, in between tears. "She is the angel of our family."
Elsewhere in the video, Taya explains that she, Bobby, and Anisa all like to make fun of each other in what she describes as a good-natured way.
"We have a little teasing with each other — that still doesn't make it right, but we go back and forth," she says.
Some viewers felt that Anisa had been used a prop — kind of like the token black friend who white people suddenly start showing off when they're accused of racism. But LuLaRoe accepted the Budenbenders' apology, writing in a statement that Bobby had displayed "unacceptable and insensitive behavior" but they believed his apology to be sincere.
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But despite LuLaRoe's assertion that it decided to cut ties, the National Down Syndrome Society says it has ended its relationship with LuLaRoe as a result of the incident, explaining that the original video was "unacceptable and further perpetuates the stigmas we work to fight and end each and every day."
Previously, BuzzFeed News reports, the NDSS had planned to honor LuLaRoe at its annual gala this March.
The Budenbenders have yet to respond to interview requests from Phoenix New Times and other outlets; in the video, Bobby says that he's received numerous death threats.