WH calls faux interpreter at Mandela event a distraction and a 'shame'

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 11, 2013 

South Africa Mandela Interpreter

President Barack Obama delivers his speech next to a sign language interpreter during a memorial service at FNB Stadium in honor of Nelson Mandela.

EVAN VUCCI — ASSOCIATED PRESS

The White House says it didn't have security concerns with an apparently fake sign language interpreter -- now immortalized on Twitter as #fakeinterpreter -- who stood next to President Obama Tuesday in Johannesburg as he eulogized Nelson Mandela.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest referred reporters' questions about security to the Secret Service and questions about the interpreter to the South African government. But he said it was a "shame" that the service celebrating Mandela "has gotten distracted by this and a few other issues that are far less important than the legacy of Nelson Mandela."

When a reporter asked whether it would've been a problem had the presumably faux interpreter translated Obama's remarks "into another language incorrectly," Earnest noted it was a hard question to asnwer.

"Maybe he was translated incorrectly in some language in his speech and we don't know about it. That possibility does exist," Earnest said, "Secondly, it's not clear to me that this person translated the president at all. He apparently was not translating him into anything, but was enjoying the opportunity to be on the stage."

Earnest added, that Obama delivered what he called "some very powerful remarks about the personal impact that President Mandela had on his own life and his own commitment to public service."

"It would be a shame," he said, "if a distraction about an individual who's on stage, in any way detracted from the importance of that event and the importance of President Mandela's legacy."

 

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