*Remember that Alexander O’Neil song called “Fake?” Well, it might be appropriate for this story.
As many were caught up in President Barack Obama’s moving eulogy for the late South African President Nelson Mandela, there was one person who managed to leave a bad taste in people’s collective mouths the world over.
The U.K.’s Daily Mail revealed the person to be the event’s sign-language interpreter, who moved his hands in mock sign language. The Deaf Federation of South Africa confirmed the movements were simply made-up signs, the newspaper reported Wednesday.
Although the man gestured in a manner that looked realistic to outsiders while standing near President Obama and several other dignitaries who spoke, three deaf experts reviewing the footage said his signing amounted to gibberish.
“The structure of his hand, facial expression and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying,” Braam Jordaan, a board member of the World Deaf Federation, told Australia’s SBS News.
“I was really upset and humiliated,” said Jordaan, who is deaf. “What happened at the memorial service is a truly disgraceful thing to see. What happened today will forever be aligned with Nelson Mandela and the deaf community, thanks to this fake interpreter.”
Wilma Newhoudt, a member of the South African Parliament who serves as vice president of the World Federation of the Deaf, joined the chorus of angry people in the deaf community who were angry over the hoax. Taking to Twitter, Newhoudt tweeted: “Shame on this male so called interpreter on the stage. What is he signing? He knows that the deaf cannot vocally boo him off. Shame on him!”
As if things couldn’t get more messed up, an offensive sign language joke caused major embarrassment for the “Today Show.”
The Huffington Post reports that an apology was issued Wednesday by the morning show. To recap, “Today Show” co-hosts Natalie Morales, Willie Geist and Al Roker were discussing the story about the man posing as a sign-language interpreter during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.
During their talk, a video popped up on screen of a “Today” producer making meaningless signs. Despite the co-hosts immediately trying to signal the show’s producers to get rid of the video as soon as it appeared, it remained on-screen for several seconds.
“No, no, no, no” the co-hosts began repeating.
“That is horrific,” Morales said.
The Today show co-hosts’ reaction to the joke can be seen in the video below:
Watch this report from NBC’s Ron Allen on the fake interpreter: