An online petition called for the removal of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter Heather Mewshaw from the White House’s daily briefings after her support for former President Donald Trump was uncovered in videos posted online.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced Monday that ASL interpreters would be a part of the administration’s daily news briefings. Psaki introduced by her first name. According to analysis published Tuesday by Time Magazine, Mewshaw was an administrator for a group of ASL interpreters that provided translations for some videos that espoused right-wing ideals. A petition started Monday on Change.org began gathering signatures to ban Mewshaw “from interpreting White House again.”
“The White House announced they include ASL interpreters for daily briefings to show they are inclusive,” the petition read. “Out of many ASL interpreters in DC/MD/VA, they unknowingly hired a notorious Trump supporter, Heather Mewshaw, to interpret for the White House briefing, January 22, 2021. The Deaf Community is outraged when they saw her presence.”
The petition described Mewshaw’s actions as “unethical and harmful to the Deaf Community at large.”
According to Mewshaw’s biography on the Independent Interpreters website, Mewshaw’s strengths “are in settings such as Federal and state government, medical, conferences, religious services, and highly-technical assignments.”
Originally called Right Side ASL, Mewshaw’s group of ASL interpreters rebranded itself as Hands of Liberty after its content was removed from Facebook in November. Hands of Liberty also deleted its accounts on Parler, Instagram and Twitter.
A video posted to the now-inaccessible Hands of Liberty Facebook page was titled “Joe Biden is literally and legally not the President elect.” In the clip as described by Time, another interpreter provided ASL translation for conservative commentator Candace Owens.
Videos from the conservative social media platform Rumble show Mewshaw offering interpretations for remarks made by comedian Terrence Williams. Williams could be seen wearing a red Keep America Great cap.
“Joe Biden will never be my president,” Williams said as Mewshaw interpreted.
A January video entitled “Thank You President Trump From the Right Side ASL Team” was also posted to Rumble. Mewshaw appears in the video wearing a Keep America Great hat and providing an interpretation of the Village People song “YMCA.” Trump often used the song to close out his campaign events. Footage of Trump dancing to the song is featured in the Rumble video during Mewshaw’s interpretation.
Both of the Rumble clips feature disclaimers. “This isn’t our original video,” the text reads. Hands of Liberty provides, upon request, ASL interpreting accommodations to the Deaf community for inaccessible online video content. This service is provided by volunteers. Remember that censorship is considered an act of violence and oppression that causes trauma to everyone involved.”
Psaki’s described the decision to include an ASL interpreter at press briefings as part of Biden’s commitment to “building an America that is more inclusive, more just and more accessible for every American.”