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Trump Backed Off His Plan To Slash Funding For The Special Olympics After Facing Backlash

"I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics," Trump said.

Last updated on March 28, 2019, at 5:20 p.m. ET

Posted on March 28, 2019, at 4:35 p.m. ET

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

President Trump said Thursday he had reversed a proposal by his administration to slash funding for the Special Olympics after news of the budget plan sparked days of criticism.

“The Special Olympics will be funded," Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a rally in Michigan. "I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics."

The abrupt reversal came after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blasted the media on Wednesday for having “spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts” about the controversy.

"The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It's a private organization,” DeVos wrote in a statement defending the plan. “Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year."

The proposal to cut the roughly $18 million the federal government provides for the Special Olympics came as part of a budget proposal from the administration to cut $7 billion in education spending.

Some viral tweets had suggested the funding cuts were a fait accompli, but the entire budget proposal in fact had little to no chance of ever passing Congress.

At a congressional hearing Tuesday, DeVos was grilled about the proposal and admitted she didn't know how many children participated in the Special Olympics.(The organization has said 272,000 in almost 6,500 schools nationally participated in their programs thanks to federal funding.)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies in Washington.
Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies in Washington.

"I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget," Rep. Barbara Lee of California told her. "You zero that out. It’s appalling.”

DeVos has insisted the Trump administration is committed to helping children with disabilities and her statement Wednesday emphasized the budget also allocated $13.2 billion to the states under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

Special Olympics chair Timothy Shriver told MSNBC that the organization disagreed with the proposed cuts.

“The federal government, if it believes in full inclusion, and it does — our Constitution, our Declaration and our laws tell us we do — and if the federal government has a role to support that, it ought to be investing in kids with special needs," Shriver said. “Give these young people the chance to shine, to tell their stories, as you’ve heard, the country is starving for this.”

After Trump's announcement Thursday to continue funding the organization, DeVos said she supported the decision.

“I am pleased and grateful the President and I see eye to eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant," she said. "This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.”

Brianna Sacks contributed to this report.

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