Williams came under intense fire on social media for mocking the condition by pulling her lip up with her finger on her talk show.
Wendy Williams usually doesn't back down from her inflammatory and incendiary commentary on her talk show, and for a week she stayed silent after an insensitive moment while discussing Joaquin Phoenix where she tried to mimic a cleft palate by pulling her lip up with her finger while her audience laughed.
But on Wednesday night, after an onslaught from social media, including an explosive attack by Cher, the talk show host has apologized for her insensitive gesture and gone so far as to make donations to organizations that help children with cleft palates.
Cher was among the many, many voices outraged on social media after Williams physically mocked the appearance of a cleft lip during a segment where she talked about how attractive she found the "Joker" star.
"When he shaves off his mustache he's got a hairline fracture," she said of Phoenix. "He's got one of those -- what do you call it? cleft lip, cleft palate."
Notably, Phoenix has never admitted to having this condition. While he does bear a similar scar to many who've had their cleft lip surgically closed, his is reportedly not related to a cleft palate at all, but simply a facial scar he was born with.
APOLOGIZED🤬 THERE IS NO APOLOGY FOR WHAT SHE DID…. & LAUGHED ABOUT ‼️I KNOW THESE CHILDREN,& ADULTS.THEY GO THROUGH HELL,THEIR PARENTS GO THROUGH HELL‼️Fk Her Apology. SHE WANTS TO KEEP HER JOB‼️I CANT CONTAIN MY ANGER‼️
Earlier in the night, Cher went off on Williams about the pain and challenges these kids and their families must endure throughout their childhood, often including multiple facial surgeries in an attempt to "look normal."
She gained a greater appreciation and sympathy for the plight of kids with serious facial conditions after her Golden Globe-nominated performance in "Mask," based on the true story of a boy with a rare disfiguring facial condition.
@WendyWilliams I Was Going To Try & Hold My Temper🤞🏻BUT IM SO F-NG ANGRY I CANT😤. In 1985 I Made a Film Called “MASK”‼️THROUGH THAT FILM I BECAME INVOLVED WITH CHILDREN,& ADULTS WHO HAD CRANIOFACIAL ANOMALIES. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THESE PPL GO THROUGH‼️20+ OPERATIONS
BEFORE THEIR TEENS‼️MUCH OF THE TIME THEY ARE IN PAIN,AFRAID,BUT HAVE HOPE 🙏🏻THEY WILL LOOK NORMAL. THE💔& FEAR THEIR PARENTS GO THROUGH IS UNBEARABLE. IF YOUR MOM SAW WHAT YOU DID SHE'D BE ASHAMED. MY MOM TAUGHT ME TO LOVE & HELP PPL IN PAIN.WHO ARE U⁉️U SHOULD B FIRED
And Cher wasn't alone in her ire, with Williams specifically referencing Candian Football linebacker Adam Bighill in her apology. He apparently got her attention after a five-day barrage of tweets when he called her out as promoting bullying with her comments, even as his own son was going in for surgery to get his lip repaired.
Thank you @WendyWilliams 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. https://t.co/JmYnRb8C8t
Unlike Cher, though, Bighill accepted Williams apology, and thanked her for her donation. "I forgive you, and I encourage others to as well," he wrote in his tweet. "I wish you all the best."Williams' apology promoted two charitable causes related to cleft palate and encouraged her viewers to learn more as well, even as it came a week after the segment aired.Certainly, Bighill's pointed comments (he's been posting about it every day since the 10th), complete with a picture of his adorable son, was a poignant reminder that these are real people and their real lives that can be impacted by the insensitivity of her behavior.
Williams is usually apologetically off-color and over-the-top on her show, but it's nice to see that there are times she does look back, reflect and reconsider the appropriateness of her choices and, most importantly, is willing to acknowledge that she crossed a line and can learn and grow from it.Below are some of the reactions that have been coming in a constant stream since that segment aired last week before reaching critical mass on Wednesday:
As Ambassador for Cleft Lip and Palate Association @CLAPACOMMUNITY I really am disgusted by this @wendywilliams.. Mimicing 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? Please RT https://t.co/bINZItpWgI
Dear @WendyWilliams there is a perfect little person in surgery today, which is a scary day for his parents. Wouldn't today be a perfect day to address the ooopsy you made last week mocking facial differences? You can do it Wendy, open your ♥️@Bighill44 @KristinaBighill
Wendy Williams is trash for making fun of Joaquin Phoenix and his cleft lip. Targeting someone's appearance, especially since he can't help that he was born with it is just fucking disgusting. You are trash Wendy Williams. pic.twitter.com/C3Cp9aNKLX
I've had more than a dozen surgeries because of my cleft lip and cleft palate. Your actions actually made me feel bad about myself, and that really sucks. You should consider apologizing to Joaquin Phoenix, at the least. #WendyWilliams pic.twitter.com/0gHkM0ZoaM
My birth defect isn't a joke, nor the 70+ surgeries I had or the years of torment over not having a “normal face”. My family was lucky enough to have been given assistance to cover the costs of the lifetime of medical bills. Fuck off. https://t.co/CHw3XxLEgd
Hey @WendyWilliams, a public apology to the cleft community is in order. Coming from the father of a beautiful son born with cleft lip/palate, if you had to experience what we have watching our son go through everything he has, you wouldnt be so quick to make fun of this. pic.twitter.com/OcnIcxJVzw
I enjoy putting my feet up and watching some TV when I can. I won't be watching @WendyWilliams and further, I won't be tuning into anything on @FOXTV or @bet until @Bighill44 is happy with a resolution. The fact this has taken as long as it has is disturbing.
@WendyWilliams should feel ashamed for being so disrespectful joking about Joaquin Phoenix cleft lip, not only to him but others out there. This should not have been aired and she should be held responsible for her actions. pic.twitter.com/bW27B10muc