Talk show host Wendy Williams has apologized after making a tasteless joke about actor Joaquin Phoenix. The Hollywood star, who recently wowed audiences and critics with his role in The Joker, has a scar over his lip, which Phoenix claimed is not only a non-surgical scar but also one that he was born with. Many believe that the actor 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.
Though the groove is normally covered by a beard, it was apparent during a press picture for The Joker when Phoenix appeared clean-shaven.
On her show, Williams claimed that he looked "oddly attractive" but then continued cruelly to make fun of his appearance. "When he shaves off his mustache he's got a hairline fracture. He's got one of those — what do you call it? Cleft lip, cleft palate," she said. Williams then mimicked the condition by tugging at her lip.
The move immediately earned backlash from the online community
Shortly after airing, many people slammed Williams for making fun of the condition. One of the most vocal was Canadian football player Adam Bighill.
"[Wendy Williams] 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," he wrote on Twitter (via The Daily Mail).
Other celebrities lashed out at Williams as well. "If your mom saw what you did she'd be ashamed," wrote singing icon Cher. "I really am disgusted by this . . . 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?" added British television personality Carol Vorderman
Williams accordingly apologized after the online backlash
Fortunately, Williams decided to apologize for the mean-spirited joke. She specifically brought up Bighill's son, Beau, who was undergoing surgery to correct the condition. "I want to apologize to the cleft community and in Beau's honor, our show is donating to [Operation Smile] and [American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association] and encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community," she wrote in a tweet.
Bighill saw the message and replied to it in the most heart-warming of ways. "Thank you [Williams] for your apology, your donation, and for thinking of Beau today for his surgery. I forgive you, and I encourage others to as well. I wish you all the best," he returned.
Williams has recently been in the headline due to her husband's cheating scandal, as previously covered by The International Business Times.