Wendy Williams Apologizes After Being Slammed for Mocking Joaquin Phoenix's Cleft Lip Surgery Scar

The daytime host announced that The Wendy Williams Show will be donating to both Operation Smile and the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association

Wendy Williams is donating to two organizations in support of those born with cleft lips or palates after she was slammed for seeming to mock the birth conditions while talking about Joaquin Phoenix on her show last week.

While discussing the Golden Globes during the Jan. 7 episode of The Wendy Williams Show, the 55-year-old host told her audience that she finds Phoenix “oddly attractive.”

“He played that Johnny Cash. It wasn’t Reese [Witherspoon] who kept me, it was him,” she said, referring to the actor’s Oscar-nominated performance in Walk the Line.

“He knows how to transform, when he shaves [his beard] off, the way he looks at you,” Williams continued. “And he’s got the good nose that dips way down, like he’s happy with it and so am I.”

The <a href="https://people.com/tag/wendy-williams/" data-inlink="true">Wendy Williams</a> Show
Wendy Williams. The Wendy Williams Show/YouTube

“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,” Williams continued, using her hand to pull up her own lip. “He’s got this.”

“I find it to be very attractive,” she said, still holding up her own lip above her teeth.

In past interviews, Phoenix has said that he does not have a cleft lip, but rather a birth mark.

Williams’ demonstration garnered backlash online, particularly from Canadian football player Adam Bighill, who has tweeted at the talk show host several times over the past week asking for an apology.

Bighill’s son Beau had his lip repaired on Wednesday, the athlete revealed on Twitter.

“Today is Beau’s big day. He is getting his lip repaired today in Winnipeg by the fantastic Dr. Ross,” he wrote, sharing a photo holding his baby. “Thanks to everyone who has reached out, and in advance, thanks for any of your well wishes for Beau. He is so loved!”

Later, he wrote in another since-deleted tweet that he was still waiting for Williams to apologize.

Joaquin Phoenix
Kevin Winter/Getty

“Waiting for an apology and donation from @WendyWilliams and since we are still waiting, this campaign has gone viral,” he said. “This campaign/message is all centered around one thing we all agree on, bullying is awful. Thank you all for being a part of the difference #end bullying”

Williams responded to Bighill on Twitter Wednesday in an apology “to the cleft community,” sharing that The Wendy Williams Show donated to both Operation Smile and the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association in Beau’s honor.

“.@Bighill44 We’re thinking about Beau today as he is in surgery,” Williams wrote. “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.”

“A cleft lip happens if the tissue that makes up the lip does not join completely before birth,” the Centers for Disease Control says, while a cleft palate happens when “the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy.”

About one in every 1,600 babies is born with a cleft lip and cleft palate in the United States, while about 1 in every 2,800 babies is born with a cleft lip but not a cleft palate, according to the CDC.

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