Griffin’s severed head photo was tasteless, but shouldn’t end her career
One word probably best describes most Americans’ reaction to the recent image of bawdy comic Kathy Griffin holding a bloody-like simulation of President Donald Trump’s head: aghast.
That said, I doubt anyone viewed the photo — shot by photographer Tyler Shields, who has made a name for himself with controversial, shocking art — as inspiration to assassinate Trump, as seems to be implied by the U.S. Secret Service opening an investigation of Griffin. What a waste of time such an investigation is for an agency charged with protecting the First Family and other high officials against the real threats that reportedly pop up daily.
The Secret Service is not to be blamed for the decision, though. Political pressure from inside and outside the White House to investigate Griffin probably blew the lid off the office of Director Randolph Alles, who was appointed by the president and took office in April of this year.
The White House Communications Department staff probably dropped to their knees in unison in an expression of thanks when they first heard about Griffin’s ill-conceived publicity stunt. Finally! Finally, they had something to distract the media, and in turn the public, from those pesky questions about the Russia investigation, the impending testimony by fired FBI Director James Comey, Trump’s unpopular plan to pull out of the worldwide Paris Climate Accord to fight man-made climate damage, the president’s failure to release his income tax returns and the daily headaches created by Trump’s early morning tweets that often defy logic.
To be sure, Trump wasted no time in going after Griffin — who starred for five years in her own reality show on Bravo, My Life on the D List — on Twitter, calling her “sick” and shaming her. First Lady Melania Trump — who, by the way, posed nude for photo shoots before and after marrying Trump — chimed in, implying Griffin might be mentally ill.
Both claimed their 11-year-old son, who undoubtedly must be exposed to a wealth of lurid news about his family daily, reacted in fear to the photo after seeing the image on television.
I wonder what channel Barron Trump was watching? I never saw the actual image on TV because all the broadcast outlets blurred the image of the fake head. When I finally saw it on the Internet with the help of a Google search, after listening to and reading about all the hoopla, I thought it looked sort of ridiculous.
I thought the concept rose to the level of atrociously bad taste, but I certainly didn’t view the image with any horror.
Griffin, 56, simply played into the hands of those who already hated her and her work. I have many conservative associates on Facebook (I like to keep up with what they are thinking and saying) and their messages mirrored each other. They all professed longtime disgust with the comic, and they celebrated CNN’s decision to fire her from the network’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration, which she has co-hosted with Anderson Cooper for more than a decade. They also rejoiced in the mass cancellations of her scheduled gigs and cancellation of an endorsement contract and advertising campaign by Squatty Potty.
A chorus of “she deserves everything she gets” arose.
On Facebook, one critic said Griffin only apologized because she was about to get fired by CNN. I personally can’t think of a better time to apologize, and I’ve employed the same tactic to spare my ass during my four-decade career. I probably even managed a few tears.
That’s what happened to Griffin. Appearing — without false eyelashes — she begged for forgiveness and, at a press conference, nearly collapsed in tears. But the blood in the water only sealed her fate, as the sharks circling her moved closer for the kill.
No one cared about her explanation that Trump’s comments about blood seeping out of TV interviewer Megyn Kelly inspired the photo shoot. Everyone forgot about Trump’s unrelenting and brutal attacks on many women (whom he once advocated grabbing by the pussies) and his failures to apologize to them. His only apology went to his wife and daughter when the infamous tape recording of his conversation with TV personality Billy Bush outed him.
In retrospect, Griffin might have fared better had she not apologized and held her ground. That’s the course of action chosen by the photographer.
Griffin has received support from other comics, such as Alec Baldwin, Jerry Seinfield and Jim Carrey. Unfortunately, Anderson Cooper, who kept the closet door in his Vanderbilt-sheltered ivory tower barricaded as long as possible before coming out, abandoned Griffin, using words such as “disgusting” and “appalling” to describe the photo.
Griffin, who has raised so much money for equality and championed the LGBT rights movement, made an error in judgment. But who hasn’t?
I’m hoping her career will recover in time. Everyone deserves a second chance if they are truly interested in avoiding such missteps in the future. I’m going to miss her on New Year’s Eve in Times Square on CNN, but I won’t be watching Cooper even if he manages to recruit his friend fellow gay personality, Andy Cohen, to the vacancy as is being rumored.
David Webb is a veteran journalist with more than three decades of experience, including a stint as a staff reporter for Dallas Voice. He now lives on Cedar Creek Lake and writes for publications nationwide.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 9, 2017.