Kathy Griffin’s Offensive Trump Photo and the Fox News Snowflakes

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Photo: Tyler Shields

Kathy Griffin did a very stupid thing. She posed with a fake, decapitated head of President Trump. The photo, a collaboration between Griffin and photographer Tyler Shields, was clearly meant to echo the horrific images we have seen of ISIS beheadings in similar poses. Once the Griffin photo went viral and elicited a strongly negative reaction, Griffin issued an apology that seemed as false as her hair color.

Now, it’s never a good idea to heed anything Griffin does. Braying and punishingly obvious, she specializes in unfunny comedy that tries to trade on the insult humor of comics such as Joan Rivers and Don Rickles — minus any actually amusing content. You’re better off not taking her bait. But Fox News fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.

On Tuesday morning, they were almost weeping with outrage and sorrow on Fox and Friends. You can’t fool co-host Ainsley Earhardt: “Someone had to buy that head,” she said, yelping, “They knew what they were doing!” “What is wrong with our country?” said Earhardt, thus suggesting that the blight that is Kathy Griffin is a metaphor for the entire United States writ large. Earhardt added, “We’ll be talking about it all morning.” Of course you will. On Monday night, Fox’s The Five led off its show with the Griffin stunt. Panelist Greg Gutfeld began with the smart angle, observing, “If we get mad, [Griffin] wins.” But then — duh — the rest of the gang of five proceeded to … get mad! “This is so horribly offensive, it’s horrible!” said Kimberly Guilfoyle, adding, “I’m never gonna forget about it.” Dana Perino asserted that “this sets back the left’s agenda” — because, you know, the American left wing takes its marching orders from Kathy Griffin. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host welcomed Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe, who said of Griffin’s photo, “I am very outraged!”

Fox personalities acted, in short, like the liberal “snowflakes” they usually enjoy deriding: people who take grave offense at provocative incidents. Behind the scenes, Fox producers recognized a golden opportunity to attack a competitor: Because Griffin co-hosts CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast with Anderson Cooper, Fox festooned its coverage with anti-CNN messages. The Five’s segment featured a big backdrop blaring, “CNN’s Crude Comedian.” A chyron beneath the Five anchors read, “CNN Star ‘Beheads’ Mock President Trump In Shocking Photo.” At least three Fox News shows specifically asked why there was no reaction from Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media-criticism show Reliable Sources — apparently unaware (or not) that Stelter is taking time off after welcoming his first child into the world. CNN now says it is “reevaluating” Griffin’s role in its New Year’s Eve “coverage” — the kind of corporate language you’d use if she were a valuable news anchor. Anderson Cooper tweeted that he found Griffin’s photo “clearly disgusting.”

Fox also picked up on a sentiment Donald Trump Jr. expressed early on on social media, as many Fox personalities suggested that if a “conservative” had done this “with the head of President Obama” there would be a terrible outcry — or, as Boothe put it on Tucker Carlson, “Can you imagine a conservative comedian like Dennis Miller holding up a head of President Obama?” I could practically hear Miller, still trying to call in to The O’Reilly Factor from the West Coast, bellowing, “Leave me outta this!” As for this if-it-were-a-liberal thing: well, everyone has condemned this. There’s no shortage of Griffin condemnation.

“I sincerely apologize,” Griffin said in a video she posted to Instagram on Monday evening. “I am just now seeing the reaction of these images… I went way too far.” Sorry, Kathy, but apologizing because you see the negative reaction to something isn’t the same as apologizing for what you acknowledge was a really lousy idea. Half-hearted apology not accepted, Kathy.

Now, instead of inflicting further hours of Griffin imagery upon us, let’s hope that Fox — the only news channel that has turned this into a lead-story, time-eating crusade — will start ignoring this non-event, okay?

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