ASL interpreter Heather Mewshaw was introduced by press secretary Jen Psaki as “today’s interpreter, Heather” on Monday, as the administration announced it would be adding a sign language interpreter to its daily press briefings.
However, on Wednesday, Time magazine reported that Ms Mewshaw manages the Hands of Liberty Facebook page, which has featured ASL interpreters providing sign language accompaniments to videos featuring former President Donald Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Ms Mewshaw, who was pictured in a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat in some of the page’s videos, provided interpretation to clips featuring misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, the Capitol riots and November 2020’s presidential election.
One video Ms Mewshaw features in is titled: “WHAT REALLY HAPPENED On January 6th?” while another is called: “Joe Biden is literally and legally not the President elect.”
In a video on 20 January titled “Thank You President Trump From the Right Side ASL Team!” which was posted just five days before she was introduced as an ASL interpreter for the Biden administration, Ms Mewshaw wore a MAGA hat and signed to Mr Trump dancing to “YMCA”, according to Time.
The Facebook group was originally known as Right Side ASL before it was taken down by the social media platform in November. In a post announcing the end of the page, titled “admin update”, Ms Mewshaw was featured signing in ASL.
According to Time, a comment on the post was addressed to “Heather” and was responded to by the page’s administrator.
The page later resurfaced as Hands of Liberty, but then appeared to be deleted from Facebook after Time contacted the page for comment on Ms Mewshaw’s involvement.
Before the page was taken down, a disclaimer read: “This isn't our original video. Hands of Liberty provides, upon request, ASL interpreting accommodations to the Deaf community for inaccessible online video content. This service is provided by volunteers.”
Although the page took requests from the public, Time reported that the videos volunteers chose to interpret, except for the most recent White House press conferences, featured Mr Trump or far-right speakers.
A petition to have Ms Mewshaw removed from “ASL Interpreting for the White House,” has reached close to 1,1000 signatures at the time of writing.
Ms Psaki announced on Monday that the president wants an ASL interpreter to become a regular part of the re-instituted news conferences.
It will be the first time in history that a sign language interpreter has been added to the daily briefing. Governors in all 50 states already provide sign language interpretation for their public briefings.
Speaking about the inclusion of an ASL interpreter on Monday, Ms Psaki said that President Biden 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”.
Responding to the claims on Friday 5 February, Ms Mewshaw wrote that she worked at the White House as an "independent contractor", and interpreted five briefings for the Trump administration and one press briefing for the Biden administration.
"The remarkable win of having an ASL interpreter at every White House press briefing has been overshadowed, by a few who, without evidence or merit, chose to cast aspersions against my ability to be objective and impartial because of my involvement in a conservative social media group," Ms Mewshaw wrote.
She added: "The mostly negative media coverage of me in recent weeks has been a disservice to the ASL interpreting profession. The message being conveyed is that ASL interpreters must have a certain set of beliefs or values that align completely with the consumers.
"We must remember that an ASL interpreter is relaying the message of another person and not their own."