Wendy Williams has been branded ‘disgraceful’ for making cruel comments about Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘cleft lip’.
Williams prompted criticism for mocking the Joker actor during the Hot Topics segment of her show on January 7, a move which many characterized as ‘bullying.’
Describing Phoenix as ‘oddly attractive’ she first fawned over his ‘piercing eyes,’ before critiquing a scar on the actor’s upper lip, which is often masked by a beard.
‘When he shaves off his moustache he’s got a hairline fracture,’ she said. ‘He’s got one of those — what do you call it? Cleft lip, cleft palate.’
She then crudely hooked her finger under her lip as if she was suffering from the condition, a common birth defect which happens when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy.
The actor has said the mark is a nonsurgical scar he was born with, according to a Vanity Fair cover story from November.
It is thought Joaquin was born with a ‘microform cleft,’ a mild form of cleft which often doesn’t require surgery, but which leaves a small groove in the upper lip, according to the Cleft Lip and Palate Association.
Williams’ comments did not appear to cause outrage until more than a week after her show aired when Canadian football player Adam Bighill criticized Wendy in a recent tweet.
The athlete was born with a cleft lip and palate and his baby son Beau also has the condition.
‘This needs a RT!!!,’ he wrote. @WendyWilliams mimics a cleft lip and palate person!! I have a cleft lip and palate, so does my son who was just born, her actions are hideous and OFFENSIVE. Promoting bullying, with her platform, that’s IRRESPONSIBLE!! #EndBullying.’
British TV personality Carol Vorderman, 59, spoke out on Twitter, telling Williams: ‘As Ambassador for Cleft Lip and Palate Association, I really am disgusted by this @wendywilliams.
‘Mimicking a cleft lip, and making a joke about it, is disgraceful. Have you any idea the pain and operations a child with cleft must go through as they grow?.’
The talk show host has since apologized and said she is donating to charities that repair cleft lips and palates.
‘@Bighill44 We’re thinking about Beau today as he is in surgery. I want to apologize to the cleft community and in Beau’s honour, our show is donating to @operationsmile and @AmerCleftPalate and encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community,’ she tweeted.
Bighill also wrote to Wendy on what was a landmark day for his boy Beau and their family.
‘Today is Beau’s big day,’ Adam wrote along with a photo of him holding his little guy. ‘He is getting his lip repaired today in Winnipeg by the fantastic Dr. Ross.
‘Thanks to everyone who has reached out, and in advance, thanks for any of your well wishes for Beau. He is so loved! #cleftstrong #1in700 #cleftcutie.’
Earlier he’d tweeted at Wendy’s network Fox, asking them for action.
‘Waiting for @FOXTV and @BET to let @WendyWilliams [know] that her actions/comments towards the cleft community are not okay,’ Bighill wrote.
CLAPA Community, the Cleft Lip and Palate Association called Wendy out, writing: ‘CLAPA is calling on @WendyWilliams to issue a public, an on-air apology for her ignorant, offensive actions on her show this week, and to educate herself about the reality of cleft lip and palate around the world.’
Average folk also chimed in.
One upset user explained why Wendy was out of line, writing: ‘This is Wendy Williams making fun of Joaquin Phoenix because of his cleft lip. She said, “he is handsome as long as he doesn’t shave…he has that hair lip.” Calling a cleft lip “hair lip” is INCREDIBLY offensive!!!’
Wendy has yet to address the controversy.
And it doesn’t seem like Joaquin will have time to worry about Williams’ words.
The talent has a busy few weeks again, racking up awards nominations with the Screen Actor’s Guild, BAFTAs, and of course, the Oscars. He’s a favourite in the category, already taking home the Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice Awards for his role.