Wendy Williams issues apology after mocking Joaquin Phoenix's cleft lip
American television presenter Wendy Williams has issued an apology after mocking Joaquin Phoenix's cleft lip during a segment on her magazine TV show, The Wendy Williams Show.
The discussion came about when Williams was talking about Beyoncé refusing to stand for the Joker star after he was announced as the winner of the Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) at the 2020 Golden Globes earlier this month.
Describing Phoenix as "oddly attractive", Williams proceeded to talk about the scar on his upper lip, going as far as to use her finger to simulate a cleft lip.
Watch Williams simulate Phoenix's cleft lip below:
One of Joaquin's most distinctive facial features is the scar on his upper lip. This is the result of Phoenix being born with a microform cleft, the mildest form of cleft lip. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Phoenix revealed was simply born with the mark, and never underwent surgery.
Viewers were left furious by Williams' gesture, and many took to Twitter to express their outrage.
Twitter user Matt Groark wrote: "For a solid 10 seconds she used her finger to mimic a cleft lip while the audience laughed. Imagine how my 5 year old would take it if he saw it?"
And mom Adriane wrote: "@WendyWilliams my daughter was born with a CLEFTLIP I pray daily that she is able to grow up knowing how beautiful god made her without having to hear comments from uneducated people like you I [pray you] educate yourself and make an apology to the people you hurt"
One viewer even set up a Change.org online petition calling for Williams to be fired from her role - a petition that has since been signed by over 24,000 people (as of this writing).
Watch Beyoncé refuse to stand for Phoenix during his ovation:
The description for the petition reads: "This ignorant piece of work decided to mock Joaquin Phoenix and his “hare lip, cleft lip, palate” on daytime television and even went as far as pulling her upper lip with her finger, she is a total disgrace. [...]
"What I am saying is that she is a disgusting human being and in my opinion, if Don Cherry got fired for saying “you people” than she should be banned from daytime TV."
Now, Williams has issued an apology via her Twitter account, and urged her viewers to educate themselves more about the "cleft community". She also promised to make a donation to Operation Smile and the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association to help families dealing with the condition.
This isn't the first controversial moment Williams has had on her show. Viewers were left stunned when she tore into the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle:
The 55-year-old host wrote to her 1.5 million Twitter followers: "@Bighill44 We’re thinking about Beau today as he is in surgery. I want to apologize to the cleft community and in Beau’s honor, our show is donating to @operationsmil and @AmerCleftPalate and encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community."
In her tweet, Williams is replying to Canadian football player Adam Bighill (@Bighill44), who hit out at Williams following the segment being aired. Bighill's son, Beau, was born with a cleft palate, and this is what the football star had to say about Williams' comments:
"This is @WendyWilliams making fun of the cleft community on her TV show.
Are you kidding me??? We all have a responsibility to #EndBullying With her platform, like myself, we have a much higher responsibility when it comes to our actions. This is just terrible."
Yesterday, Bighill shared a photo of him and son Beau right before the youngster went into surgery - an image that seemingly appeared to have resonated with Williams enough for her to issue an apology.
It took five days for Williams to apologize for her comments.