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Gilbert man apologizing for mocking special needs people in live sales video

Posted at 10:27 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 06:53:50-05

A Gilbert man is apologizing for a sales video in which he appears to mock people with special needs. 

Bobby Budenbender is an independent fashion retailer for women's clothing company LuLaRoe. In a live sales video last week, he appears to mock people with special needs by saying, "Hi, I'm Robert, and I'm special." 

Half an hour after the original video, Bobby posted an apology video with his wife and her sister, who also happens to have Down Syndrome. 

"It's not okay," explained Bobby. "I realized I offended someone and I realized I made a huge mistake." 

Bobby even chokes up during portions of the videos and explains he's received death threats because of it.  

LuLaRoe announced it's standing by Bobby, accepting his apology but also said, "His bad judgment in no way represents the beliefs and character of LuLaRoe or Independent Fashion Retailers." (see the full statement below) 

The company also said it would increase sensitivity and tolerance training in light of this incident.  

But not everyone thinks that's enough. Some people on social media have vowed to stop shopping at LuLaRoe unless they get rid of Bobby. 

Others like Chris Bowden with the Down Syndrome Network says there is a lesson to be learned. 

"It was kind of disheartening as a parent of someone with a disability," explained Bowden. "Knowing it could be hurtful and almost hateful." 

On Monday, the National Down Syndrome Society announced it was cutting ties with LuLaRoe in light of what happened. 

Statement by LuLaRoe:

"We remain strongly committed to promoting Down syndrome education and outreach. This is an issue that is very personal, near and dear to our hearts, and important to our family and the entire LuLaRoe community. We are deeply saddened and disappointed to announce our decision to end our relationship with the National Down Syndrome Society. Our company and the Independent Fashion Retailers have embraced the NDSS and its important work and have enthusiastically supported the organization’s efforts over the past year. Regrettably, a LuLaRoe Independent Fashion Retailer exhibited unacceptable and insensitive behavior during a live sale, which understandably offended viewers as well as everyone at LuLaRoe.  His bad judgment in no way represents the beliefs and character of LuLaRoe or Independent Fashion Retailers. Immediately after his sale, the Retailer posted an apology, which is available below. He also reached out to NDSS and said he and his wife have agreed to use the incident as a learning experience and expressed his intension to focus his business on support for the organization and its cause. After speaking with the Retailer at great length, we believe his apology is sincere and accepted his assurance that this type of behavior would never happen again.  We are also using this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to redouble our sensitivity and tolerance training efforts and policies for Independent Fashion Retailers. Unfortunately, NDSS leadership is unwilling to accept the Retailer’s apology and has informed us that unless we terminate his contract with LuLaRoe, the organization will no longer associate with us.  We do not believe the most productive response to his actions, which he has fully apologized for, is to close his business and threaten his ability to provide for his family. This fundamental difference in how we view education and awareness initiatives – joined with our commitment to not fight intolerance with eradication – ultimately contributed to our decision to end this relationship. The culture of LuLaRoe and the opportunity to continue to improve lives and strengthen communities through strong principles of acceptance and education will remain among our highest priorities. This incident will not lessen our commitment to playing a positive role in raising awareness and contributing to Down Syndrome causes. We wish the NDSS continued success."