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New Mobility is the membership publishing of joined Spinal Association, whose mission is come empower human being with spinal cord injuries and also related disabilities to command successful and also fulfilling lives.


United Spinal is celebrating 75 years of service to the disability community.

Learn More


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You are watching: How did charles krauthammer get paralyzed

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Renowned conservative author Charles Krauthammer took great pains to not have his wheelchair show in the media. Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for The Washington Post, best-selling author, Fox News commentator and well-respected conservative rhetorician, passed away on June 21 after ~ an wild return the cancer following treatment for an abdominal muscle tumor.

A big portion the the basic public had actually at the very least heard of Krauthammer — appearing multiple times every week top top America’s highest-rated cable news channel will execute that — and also his affect on modern conservative assumed is considerable. What a much smaller percent knew was the he was a wheelchair user, as he had been living v quadriplegia due to the fact that a diving accident at age 22 if attending Harvard medical School.

Both his nationwide prominence and the public ignorance the his disability are of Krauthammer’s very own design. He was strongly ambitious, having graduated top top time and also with honors native Harvard after ~ his accident. During the really brief time Krauthammer was involved in the field of psychiatry, he won a prize because that excellence in psychiatric research. Yet he conveniently grew bored through the profession, and turned his significant intellect come politics. With beside no experience, he to be hired together a decided writer because that Vice president Walter Mondale throughout the Jimmy Carter reelection project of 1980. “History is shaped by its battle of ideas, and I want to be in the arena,” Krauthammer reflect in 2003.

He climbed quickly among the commentariat, acquisition a project with the significant magazine, The brand-new Republic, before becoming a columnist through The Washington Post in 1984. Krauthammer began his creating career as a “liberal Cold Warrior,” and also is attributed with coining the hatchet “the Reagan Doctrine” because that the plan to carry out military assistance to anti-communist teams throughout the Americas. Later, that wholeheartedly established as a neoconservative, suggesting for robust military pressure to combat terrorism and leading the chorus of voices saying for the 2003 intrusion of Iraq.

In Krauthammer’s rather lofty “history-shaping” mission, he originally saw his impairment as an impediment, not due to the fact that it in any way affected his skilled abilities — thinking, writing and talking — but because of the means people would check out him. “That to be the one point that bothered me really early on,” Krauthammer claimed in a Washington Post interview in 1984, the first time he spoke publicly around his disability. “The very first week, i thought, the destructive thing is that people are walk to judge me currently by a different standard. If I can just muddle v life, they’ll say it to be a an excellent achievement, given this.”

“I believed that would be the worst, that would certainly be the best defeat in my life — if I allowed that. I determined if I might make civilization judge me by the old standard, that would be a triumph and that’s what I shot to do. It seemed to me the only method to live.”

Hiding in plain Sight

To anyone who has actually lived with a visible disability, personal experience would certainly tell you the Krauthammer’s comes to were valid. Nevertheless of your ambitions or abilities, it can be challenging to it is in taken seriously in a world where merely living together wheelchair user — gaining out of bed in the morning, going to the store, permit alone holding any type of sort of job — is regularly seen as an act of courage and perseverance. This was even more true in 1975, once Krauthammer was first seeking to make a post-disability life for himself.

Krauthammer’s general policy about his disability, at least professionally, was to pretend together if the didn’t exist. That didn’t write around it, the didn’t speak publicly around issues relating to disability. The only reference to be found about Krauthammer and the ADA, once searching both The Washington Post archives and a more comprehensive Google search, is a decided he offered for the American dental Association in 2015.

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One the the couple of professional photos of Krauthammer owning his special needs in complete made the rounds after his death. Photograph by Michael Temchine / The new York times via Redux photos

For the most part, the media adhered to his great to have his handicap hidden, or at least framed in soft emphasis in the background. ~ above Fox News, he appeared from the chest or shoulders up, wheelchair invisible beneath the scrolling news ticker. Most photos show up with a comparable crop or shot indigenous an angle that shows just the barest hints of his chair. A 2014 Newsweek photograph shows Krauthammer sitting at his desk wearing a black turtle neck, a to whisper of a push manage camouflaged versus his shirt is the only visible item of his wheelchair. In the photo, his appropriate arm is visible, atrophied forearm causing a hand curled right into a loose fist. It’s a fitting illustration of the means he presented himself in the media — his impairment is visible, however only if friend go looking for it.

Of course, Krauthammer is not the an initial public persona come ablewash themselves. Franklin D. Roosevelt is the many obvious and also prominent instance — public figures with disabilities who insurance claim their careers are not around their disability and also so pick to hide it from view. The these room most often ambitious white men from privileged backgrounds must not it is in overlooked. Krauthammer came from money, and enjoyed the type of mobility where, ~ above a whim, he could switch indigenous studying ideology at Oxford to enrolling in medical school in ~ Harvard. ~ his accident, he sue the contractors of the swimming pool he dove into and also won a settlement about $1 million, which he said, “rights the scale a bit,” introduce to the extra prices of living v SCI.

The road Not Taken

None of the is to say Krauthammer rose to the summit the his chosen profession solely since of his privileges — it’s not feasible to execute anything and also he walk without uncommon talent, creativity and also work ethic — however his financial stability allowed for whatever medical care, supplies and assistance he needed.

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It would be unfair, perhaps, to have expected Krauthammer to use his public platform to advocate for society services, universal health care or an development of disability insurance. His political leanings, particularly in his later years, precluded any kind of of that, when his chosen lifestyle left him disconnected indigenous the needs and day-to-day fact of most in the impairment community. However irrespective of national politics or plan specifics, Krauthammer might have do a world of difference in societal perceptions of disability by just being more open about the totality of his life, wheelchair and all.

The few times that he did write or speak about disability, that did so with eloquence and also wisdom. In the 1984 write-up where he an initial spoke publicly about his disability, he offered this analogy: “The people who probably understand me finest are politics refugees in exile. … They need to go come a new country wherein they need to speak a language they have a many trouble with. Now, they have the right to express themselves however they never have that wonderful elegance they have in their aboriginal tongue.”

As a writer, Krauthammer own a rare gift: gift able to change people’s perspectives v the strength of his words. Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor because that the prominent foreign policy journal, The national Interest, said that Krauthammer, “crystallized conservative thought and also exerted affect by setting the regards to public conflict at crucial moments in the nation’s politics life.”

This to be a guy who helped to efficiently convince a sizable part of the U.S. The the program of Saddam Hussein was a direct and imminent danger to our country and way of life. Persuading the American publicly that human being with disabilities space a valuable, integral part of society, deserving to it is in seen and also treated as everyone else, should have actually been a rather simple task, comparatively.

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Krauthammer to be obviously pertained to with societal consciousness of disability. We’ll never understand what affect he might have made had actually he preferred to confront those perceptions directly instead that hiding his handicap from view.