A US TV host has apologised to Joker star Joaquin Phoenix after appearing to mock a scar on his upper lip.
Wendy Williams was discussing the actor following his recent Golden Globes win and said she finds him “oddly attractive”.
She then described Phoenix’s scar to the audience as a “hairline fracture”.
She said: “He’s got one of those, what do you call it? Cleft lip, cleft palate.”
“I find it to be very attractive,” she added.
Williams then hooked her finger in her lip to imitate the birth defect, which occurs when parts of a baby’s face do not join together properly during development in the womb.
Phoenix, who is Oscar-nominated for his lead role in Joker, has not spoken publicly about his scar.
Williams’s comments sparked fury online.
Canadian American football player Adam Bighill, who was born with a cleft lip and whose son, Beau, was also born with one, said the comments were “hideous and offensive”.
. @Bighill44 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 Williams (@WendyWilliams) January 16, 2020
Williams, 55, has now apologised “to the cleft community” for her statements in the January 7 episode of The Wendy Williams Show, and said the programme is donating to two charities supporting those with the defect.
She also said she wanted to “encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community”.
A cleft is a gap or split in the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth and is present from birth.
According to the NHS, a cleft lip and palate is the most common facial birth defect in the UK, affecting around 1 in every 700 babies.