“Wendy Williams” and “apology” are always interesting search terms to combine on any day of the week, given the famous radio host’s unmatched legacy of celebrity controversy. This time around, though, the apology is of a different nature: Williams is apologizing for mocking people with cleft lip on her nationally syndicated talk show.
For context: last week on “The Wendy Williams Show,” Williams was running through her regular “Hot Topics” segment, in which she discusses the biggest headlines and chunks of the week.
While discussing the actor Joaquin Phoenix’s recent win at the Golden Globes, she appeared to make fun of a mark Phoenix has on his upper lip — a small, nonsurgical scar left from a mild cleft at birth.
“When he shaves off his moustache he’s got a hairline fracture. He’s got one of those ... what do you call it? Cleft lip palate,” Williams said, pulling her lip up in mimicry. She held the gesture for nearly ten seconds, prompting laughter from the audience. “Now, I find it to be very attractive.”
Many people voiced their outrage at the joke on Twitter, including Winnipeg Blue Bomber Adam Bighill, who — like his son, Beau — was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Bighill announced that he would be calling out Williams every day on Twitter until she made a public apology and a donation to the cleft lip community.
Flash back to the present, when the American talk show host has done exactly that.
Five days after the initial incident, Williams has taken to Twitter not only to apologize, but also to pledge money to Operation Smile (a nonprofit medical organization that provides cleft lip and palate repair surgeries to kids around the world) and the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (a nonprofit medical society that treats and performs research on oral cleft and craniofacial conditions).
Bighill, whose four-month-old son just underwent repair surgery on his lip, replied to Williams’ apology in kind.
Though Williams’ apology may have been enough to satisfy Bighill, it hasn’t moved the Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) in the same way. Anna Martindale, the association’s spokeswoman, told BBC News that an apology on Twitter simply wasn’t enough to make up for the comment Williams made on national television.
“She did this on her show with millions upon millions of people watching, and I think she needs to apologize on her show as well,” Martindale said.
CLAPA made its stance clear earlier this week, when it published a news item on its website addressing the controversy.
“With a gesture and a snide, dismissive comment, Wendy Williams has broadcast to her viewers around the world that it is not just acceptable but hilarious to insult people about a condition they were born with,” the association wrote.
“The Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) are calling on Wendy Williams to issue an unreserved apology on her show for her ignorant, irresponsible actions, and to dedicate time on her show towards making her audience aware of the reality of cleft lip and palate in the USA and around the world.”
It’s not only CLAPA that isn’t too impressed by Williams’ Twitter apology. The one and only Cher, who has long supported and done volunteer work with the Children’s Craniofacial association, continued, in her trademark Twitter style, to chastise Williams for her actions.
“There is no apology for what she did,” the singer wrote. “I know these children and adults. They go through hell, their parents go through hell. Fk her apology.”
Looks like Williams might not be off the hook just yet.
Also on HuffPost: