WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The woman whose smiling face once greeted visitors to the Affordable Care Act's website said she has suffered from the website's botched launch.
The woman who asked to be identified only as Adriana said she was speaking out to defend herself after weeks of putting up with online lampooning and late-night talk show jokes, ABC News reported Wednesday.
"They have nothing else to do but hide behind the computer. They're cyberbullying," Adriana said. "I'm here to stand up for myself and defend myself and let people know the truth."
On Oct. 1, when the ACA's website launched to enroll Americans in health insurance policies through federally run exchanges, Adriana's smiling face greeted them. Adriana, seeking some free photos, emailed a contact at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency responsible for healthcare.gov's rollout, about having photos of her and her family taken in exchange for allowing the pictures to be used on the exchange website.
After the miserable launch, Andriana said, she was the object of late-night jokes, partisan hatred and intense speculation, including whether she was a legal U.S. resident.
"I mean, I don't know why people should hate me because it's just a photo," she told ABC News. "I didn't design the website. I didn't make it fail, so I don't think they should have any reasons to hate me."
Adriana said she lives in Maryland with her 21-month-old son and husband, who is a U.S. citizen, as is her son. Adriana told ABC News she has been in the country for more than six years, was currently a permanent resident and applying for citizenship.
She said it was a "relief" when her picture was removed and replaced by a graphic of icons several weeks ago.
"I wanted the picture down, and they wanted the picture down," she said. "I don't think anybody wanted to focus on the picture."
A Department of Health and Human Services representative said Adriana's photo was removed because "healthcare.gov is a dynamic website," not because she requested it.