Amid heavy backlash, Wendy Williams, 55, is apologizing for poking fun at cleft palates and cleft lips on the Jan. 7 episode of her talk show, The Wendy Williams Show. To show her regret, the host revealed that her talk show is donating money to organizations that help those born with the condition on Jan. 15. The donations will be made in honor of Beau Bighill, the four-month-old son of Canadian football player Adam Bighill, who has repeatedly called on Wendy to apologize since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers player and his child were both born with a cleft lip and cleft palate.
Adam’s requests have been heard, because Wendy responded just hours after the football player’s son went into surgery to repair the clefts in the infant’s lip and palate. “@Bighill44 [Adam] 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 @operationsmile and @AmerCleftPalate and encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community,” Wendy tweeted on Jan. 15. Adam didn’t hold a grudge. He soon responded, “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.”
Wendy came under fire after a clip of the “Hot Topic” segment from last week’s show circled Twitter. The subject was Joaquin Phoenix, and Wendy took a bad turn when she began offering commentary on the actor’s appearance. “I find him oddly attractive…And he knows how to transform,” Wendy gushed, but the conversation soon moved on to the scar above the Joker star’s lips. “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,” Wendy said, and to viewers’ horror, the talk show host even tugged at her upper lip to mimic a condition that many children have been bullied for. She added, “Now, I find it to be very attractive.”
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
— Adam Bighill (@Bighill44) January 16, 2020
Joaquin’s scar is not actually a result of surgery for a cleft, but is rather a “nonsurgical scar,” which he clarified in a 2019 profile for Vanity Fair. Regardless, many found Wendy’s comments and mimicking inappropriate. A cleft lip (a slit or opening above the lip) and a cleft palate (a slit in the roof of a mouth), often give children “problems with feeding and speaking clearly and can have ear infections,” and the possibility of “hearing problems and problems with their teeth,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s a sensitive condition that has impacted people’s lives, which Twitter users reminded Wendy.
Sad to see what is in TV these days, There is no way @TheEllenShow would do something like this. She is the CLASS of her industry, and uses her platform for so many amazing things! Makes me appreciate her show even more then I already do! https://t.co/ZRT0U2Di3c
— Adam Bighill (@Bighill44) January 10, 2020
“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,” one person born with the condition tweeted, while another wrote, “This is disgusting my sister was born with a cleft lip and require surgeries since a baby and I was born with what would have been big lateral cleft palate but was fortunate it healed in utero. Bullying is not ok!! Thank you for standing up Adam!!!!” One fan was surprised to hear these words coming from Wendy, who has been the target of unkind comments herself. “Ami – people are born with a cleft palate, not by choice. I would have expected more from someone like @WendyWilliams that has personally face derogatory, inappropriate comments and body language to be more empathetic or at least respectful,” the Twitter user wrote.