During a segment on her TV show, The Wendy Williams show, Williams commented that she found the Joker star and Oscar 2020 nominee “oddly attractive”.
She then went on to make a comment about a scar that Phoenix has, after which she mimicked what it looks like to have a cleft lip or palate, which left the audience laughing.
“He’s got that good nose that dips way down and he’s happy with, so am I,” she said, before commenting on the scar above his lip.
“And 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 palette,” says Wendy, proceeding to lift up the corner of her mouth with her finger to mimic a cleft lip.
“I find it to be very attractive.”
Cleft lip palette is a birth condition in which a baby’s mouth and top lip does not form properly, as is visible through a split in the lip. The condition requires surgical correction at birth.
Wendy Williams’ remark about Joaquin Phoenix’s cleft lips has been met with backlash as fans and social media users have lashed out at her for the insensitive joke.
British TV personality Carol Vorderman said in a tweet that she was disgusted by the joke:
“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”
Canadian footballer Adam Bighill who was born with cleft lips and also has a child with the condition has demanded an apology from Wendy Williams for the past five days.
Waiting for @FOXTV and @BET to let @WendyWilliams that her actions/comments towards the cleft community are not okay.@steeletalk had me on her show today, and we talk in depth about it. Watch and share!!
Just when I though Wendy Williams couldn’t get any more disgusting she does this. Joaquin Phoenix is beyond talented and an incredible man who fights for what he believes in and constantly does amazing work for the vegan movement. He’s a true hero. This trash is boring anyway
When you @WendyWilliams make fun of Joaquin Phoenix because he was born with a cleft lip. You were making fun of thousands of kids born with a cleft lip/palate. My sister was born with a double cleft lip/palate and has undergone 21 surgeries over her 17 yrs of life..
A petition has been launched against Williams on petition website Change.org, the petition titled Get Wendy Williams Fired has at the time of this writing garnered over 10,000 signatures.