The host made a remark about a scar on the actor's upper lip during Tuesday's episode of The Wendy Williams Show.
"When he shaves off his mustache, he's got a hairline fracture. He's got one of those — what do you call it? Cleft lip, cleft palate," she said.
She then proceeded to pull up her top lip.
"He's got this," she said. "No, I find it to be very attractive."
Many viewers, including Winnipeg Blue Bombers player Adam Bighill, slammed Williams and accused her of mocking people with a cleft palate.
"@WendyWilliams mimics a cleft lip and palate person!!" he tweeted. "I have a cleft lip and palate, so does my son who was just born, her actions are hideous and offensive. Promoting bullying, with her platform, that's IRRESPONSIBLE!! #EndBullying."
Williams later issued an apology.
"@Bighill44 We're thinking about Beau today as he is in surgery," she tweeted. "I want to apologize to the cleft community and in Beau's honor, our show is donating to @operationsmile and @AmerCleftPalate and encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community."
In an October 2019 cover story, Vanity Fair wrote Phoenix's scar was "not a surgically fixed cleft, he says, but a nonsurgical scar he was born with."