According to the profile on Independent Interpreters website, Heather Mewshaw has been working as a professional sign language interpreter since 1999. She appeared at the press-briefing with Jen Psaki on 25 January, but was replaced in the past days.
Joe Biden’s administration hired a sign language interpreter who is reportedly a supporter of former president Donald Trump. According to Time magazine, Heather Mewshaw also provided sign language accompaniments to videos posted by conservatives. In these videos, the woman often appears wearing a red hat featuring Donald Trump’s slogan Make America Great Again.
The Times writes that the interpreter also managed a Facebook group called Right Side ASL, which was deleted by the social network in December. One of the videos, where she appears, is titled “Thank You President Trump From the Right Side ASL Team!”
According to Time, the group also shared videos about voter fraud at the 2020 presidential election, a claim shared by Donald Trump and his allies.
The first person who reportedly discovered the interpreter’s political affiliations was Jon Henner, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, who is himself deaf.
Gather round folks. I have a story to tell you about the interpreter in the current White House Briefing.
This is her. In the Trump/Pence shirt and the MAGA hat. https://t.co/go0FXMIfw8 pic.twitter.com/W89RErON5X
— Jon Henner (@jmhenner) January 25, 2021
Henner believes videos where the woman appears could constitute a conflict of interest. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, a national membership organisation for sign language interpreters, has a code, which recommends to avoid and disclose “actual or perceived conflicts of interest” in work.
According to the Daily Mail, following the Monday press-briefing with Jen Psaki a petition was launched on Change.org website to have the woman removed.
“The Deaf Community is outraged when they saw her presence,” reads the statement posted on Change.org.
Mewshaw has since been replaced by other interpreters. The White House has not yet commented on the issue and the woman herself has not responded to calls.