An aide to President Obama said Wednesday that the White House had no security concerns about a phony sign-language interpreter who stood next to the president as he eulogized Nelson Mandela.
Instead of a security problem, White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest said news stories about the fake signer detracted from the purpose of the memorial service in South Africa.
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“My only reaction to that is that it’s a shame that you had a service that was dedicated to honoring the life and celebrating the legacy of one of the great leaders of the 20th century has gotten distracted by this and a couple of other issues that are far less important than the legacy of Nelson Mandela,” Mr. Earnest said.
Groups for deaf people said the signer’s hand gestures made no sense. The man sported security credentials and stood on the stage next to several dignitaries, including Mr. Obama, as they eulogized the late anti-apartheid icon Tuesday at the memorial service in Johannesburg.
Mr. Earnest said the White House isn’t sure what the signer was doing.
“It’s not clear to me that this person mistranslated the president at all,” Mr. Earnest said. “I think the point is that he apparently was not translating him into anything but was enjoying the opportunity to be on the stage.”