(Reuters) - The woman pilloried on social media and late night TV comedy shows after her image came to symbolize the flawed HealthCare.gov website is the mother of a 21-month-old son and has come forward to denounce “cyberbullying,” ABC News reported on Wednesday.
The woman, identified only as Adriana by ABC News, is a Colombian citizen who lives in Maryland and is married to a U.S. citizen. The report said she is applying for U.S. citizenship.
After remaining anonymous for weeks, she said that she decided to speak out to confront people she described as bullies hiding behind their computer screens.
“They’re cyberbullying...I had to do this for my child. I‘m here to stand up for myself,” Adriana told ABC News in a choked voice.
“I don’t know why people should hate me because it’s just a photo. I didn’t design the website,” she said.
The woman became the butt of late night TV jokes and social media ridicule after the healthcare site went live on October 1 for enrollment and immediately encountered technical problems, leaving many visitors to stare endlessly at her smiling face on their frozen computer screens.
She was called “vaguely ethnic smiling woman” by satiric talk show host Stephen Colbert and nicknamed “Glitch Girl” on Twitter or referred to with the subject #ObamacareGirl or other variants on the messaging site.
“The #obamacare girl got the worst photo shoot gig since Joey did the STD poster on Friends,” tweeted @RONCOULTER, referring to the sitcom character’s shock when he discovered that his modeling picture had been used in a campaign about venereal disease.
The ABC News report said that Adriana is a permanent legal resident of the United States eligible to apply for healthcare coverage under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Two weeks ago, the government took down Adriana’s image from the trouble-plagued website and replaced it with four chunky icons that represent ways to sign up for the new health insurance.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the website, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
Adriana said she never expected nor received money for the photo.
Instead, she was looking for free family photos when she reached out to a contact at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She offered to sit for photos that could be used to market the new healthcare law.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that “fewer than 50,000 people” had successfully signed up for insurance coverage through Healthcare.gov, which government officials say will be working smoothly by the end of November.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Sharon Begley; Editing by Grant McCool