During a toss to a commercial Friday night on “The Tonight Show,” actor Jamie Foxx “interpreted” host Jimmy Fallon with made-up sign language.
Fallon laughed. But there was nothing funny in that moment to model Nyle DiMarco, who is deaf.
DiMarco has become an icon and activist in the deaf community. The 28-year-old became the first deaf winner of “America’s Next Top Model” in 2015 and last year won season 22 of “Dancing With the Stars.”
He slammed Foxx for using “gibberish” and disrespecting the deaf community.
“@iamjamiefoxx, It is straight up disrespectful to make up sign language. Everything is in gibberish,” DiMarco wrote on Twitter.
He called out Fallon, too, writing that it’s “not comedy when you make fun of others.”
DiMarco’s tweets touched off a back-and-forth in the Twitter comments, where some people wrote that what Foxx did was just “comedy” and accused deaf people of being oversensitive.
Others, though, including actress Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actor to win an Oscar, amplified DiMarco’s concerns.
DiMarco, who runs an eponymous philanthropic foundation that works with families of deaf children, followed up with an open letter to Foxx, who has not commented on the incident.
He said Foxx’s behavior “should not be tolerated anywhere. We simply do not make fun at the expense of other cultures especially those with a history of being marginalized. When we do this, progress takes a step backward.”