Sign language interpreter accused of signing gibberish during Irma conference

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WSVN) – A sign language interpreter has been accused of being a phony after taking the stage during a Hurricane Irma news conference.

In Manatee County, officials have begun facing criticism from the deaf community, who’s outraged after an amateur interpreter was allegedly caught signing gibberish. A video has gone viral of the alleged fake interpreter during Irma, who some said had no clue of what he was doing.

Manatee County officials delivered emergency evacuation orders on Sept. 8 as the storm was quickly approaching. “I knew something went horribly wrong,” said business owner Charlene McCarthy.

McCarthy was alarmed when she saw the briefing and said her company usually provides deaf interpreters to the county. But she claims no one from the county ever called her.

“It was horribly unnerving for me to watch that knowing that I could provide a qualified certified interpreter,” said McCarthy.

County leaders said they were “in a pinch” when looking for an interpreter. So officials asked an employee who knew limited sign language to help, but when he began incorrectly interpreting words like “pizza,” “monster” and “bear” during an evacuation order, the deaf audiences watching were outraged.

“Everyone was talking about it on social media, and everyone was shocked and asking the leaders in deaf community to do something about,” said Chris Wagner, former president of the National Association for the Deaf.

Wagner was deeply disturbed at what he had just seen. “It was obvious to me that he wasn’t in a professional interpreter right off the bat, and then when he started signing, I was totally shocked,” he said.

The interpreter’s family said he just did what his bosses asked him to do.

Meanwhile, the the deaf community is demanding an apology from the county, claiming this was way too dangerous and put lives at risk.

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