"He expressed his disappointment," says Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver

Credit: LARRY DOWNING/Landov

President Barack Obama’s lighthearted Thursday night appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show didn’t leave everyone clutching their sides with laughter.

Obama’s comments to Jay Leno about his low bowling score – in particular, an off-the-cuff remark that it was “like Special Olympics or something” – had the chief executive calling Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver from Air Force One on Thursday before the program even aired.

“He expressed his disappointment and apologized,” Shriver told Friday’s edition of ABC’s Good Morning America. “He was very sincere.”

In a statement issued Friday, White House spokesman Bill Burton said, “The President made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics. He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world.”

Shriver also noted that “words hurt and words do matter, and these words that in some respect can be seen as humiliating … do cause pain.” He further said that he hopes the president’s slip of the tongue “a teachable moment for our country.”