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8 Feb, 2021 17:10

‘Canceled & humiliated’: White House ASL interpreter with links to pro-Trump group reportedly banned by Biden administration

‘Canceled & humiliated’: White House ASL interpreter with links to pro-Trump group reportedly banned by Biden administration

The White House reportedly no longer uses the services of a sign language interpreter who was exposed as leading a volunteer group that provided translations of right-wing Trump-supporting videos for the deaf community.

Heather Mewshaw said she was “canceled and humiliated publicly” after her volunteer work was first reported by Time magazine in January. She interpreted five briefings for the Trump administration in its last weeks and was tapped again to interpret Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, two weeks ago. An independent contractor, she told the New York Post that since the scandal broke, she has not been offered a return engagement.

The group, for which she was an administrator, is called Hands of Liberty. It took translation requests and was doing many videos popular among conservative audiences. Some of the speeches translated presented questionable ideas, including Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, or promoting the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19.

Speaking to the Post on Sunday, Mewshaw said that while she is a Trump supporter, her work for the group does not necessarily indicate that she agrees with the content it translates. “The goal of my activity – at the White House or with Hands of Liberty – is that it’s all about access,” she said.

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After her association with Hands of Liberty was revealed, there was a huge popular backlash on the left. Some even suggested she may deliberately misinterpret speeches from the Biden White House due to her political views.

Mewshaw, a 41-year-old married mother of four, said she has been harassed and intimidated online, and that her critics “don’t want this content to be interpreted because they don’t believe in it.”

“Deaf people just want a chance to decide for themself what information is out there.”

She added that there is an apparent bias in her case, since interpreters who are publicly known to have left-leaning political views are routinely employed by conservative speakers. What happened to her was “unjust and unfair,” she said.

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) lists Mewshaw as certified freelancer. It has a mechanism to investigate complaints of misconduct by members, but did not disclose if any were filed against her due to confidentiality rules. 

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