Howard Breuer and Monica Rizzo
October 17, 2008 08:00 PM

Denis Leary says he’s been misquoted and misunderstood.

The comic actor sparked a firestorm of criticism, even among his Hollywood colleagues, for a passage in his new book Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid saying that autism diagnoses “help explain away the deficiencies of (parents’) junior morons.”

“The point of the chapter is not that autism doesn’t exist – it obviously does,” Leary, 51, says in a statement. He says his beef is with “grown men who are either self-diagnosing themselves with low-level offshoots of the disease or wishing they could as a way to explain their failed careers and troublesome progeny.”

But the Rescue Me star’s explanation didn’t stop the attacks.

“If he was trying to be funny, he failed miserably,” says actress Holly Robinson Peete, whose son Rodney, 10, has autism. “If he was trying to sound informed, he came off as ignorant.”

The chapter, which Leary called “Autism Schmautism,” also provoked advocacy group Autism United to call for a book boycott and a picket outside Leary’s Nov. 12 appearance in Boston.

Autism activist Jenny McCarthy tells Access Hollywood that Leary is “obviously stupid,” but not worth getting upset over.

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