US President Joe Biden’s first use of a sign language interpreter at the White House led to controversy after it was reported the person chosen was a Trump activist.
Heather Mewshaw, 41, was the first interpreter used by the new administration when she appeared at a coronavirus briefing alongside Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.
Psaki introduced the American Sign Language interpreter at the briefing on Monday, saying: “Today’s interpreter, Heather, is joining us virtually. The President is committed to building an America that is more inclusive, more just and more accessible for every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families.”
Time magazine and members of the deaf community then identified Mewshaw and linked her to a Right-wing interpreters group. It was reported that she wore a red Make America Great Again hat in an Inauguration Day video on Facebook.
She previously interpreted for a video about the US Capitol riots featuring Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s lawyer, with the title “What Really Happened On January 6th?”.
Days before appearing for the White House, she signed for a video by a pro-Trump figure, who said: “Joe Biden, you will never be my president.”
Nyle DiMarco, a deaf actor, told The Washington Post: “Imagine what harm she could cause literally holding the message in her hands.”
Several thousand people have signed a petition calling for the interpreter not to be used by Biden’s White House.
The National Association of the Deaf said: “Federal law defines a qualified interpreter as one that is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially. Consequently, the White House needs to ensure that it properly vets the interpreters that handle their press briefings.”
Different interpreters appeared at White House briefings in the following days. The White House and Mewshaw did not respond to requests for comment.
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