Media Buzz

Why CNN dropped Kathy Griffin: Her Trump 'joke' repulsed the country

Howard Kurtz

It turns out that somewhere in the entertainment world, there is a line.

A line that Kathy Griffin crossed in such grotesque fashion that she wound up getting bounced by CNN.

Perhaps the more interesting question is why on earth Griffin thought it was acceptable—even worse, funny—to pose with the image of a severed head, when the bloody mask represented Donald Trump.

Perhaps it was because so many other celebrities got so much liberal love by trashing Trump in offensive ways.

Perhaps Griffin thought this was the thing to do, to grab some attention for her D-list career by joining the parade of Hollywood hatred.

This is the same Kathy Griffin, by the way, who five years ago attacked Elizabeth Hasselbeck, then with “The View,” for asking President Obama a critical question. She said Hasselbeck should “respect the office” and should “take it down a notch, bitch,” and also called her the C-word. Very classy.

I was surprised yesterday morning when CNN, which does a big buildup for Griffin hosting every New Year’s Eve with Anderson Cooper, hesitated to do anything. While calling the photo “disgusting and offensive,” the network said it was “evaluating” her New Year’s Eve deal. My take is that the executives were waiting to see whether the thing blew over.

When the criticism intensified—with Twitter condemnations not just from President and Melania Trump but from Chelsea Clinton—CNN announced in the afternoon that it was terminating the agreement.

Griffin may have had reason to think that this was just another exercise in Trump-bashing. Madonna talked about wanting to blow up the White House. Meryl Streep called Trump a bully at the Golden Globes and later said she hoped he could avoid nuclear winter. Jimmy Kimmel, hosting the Oscars, talked about Trump tweeting during his 5 a.m. bowel movement.

Stephen Colbert told a crude sex joke about Trump and Vladimir Putin, offered a lame non-apology and his ratings are going up. Bill Maher told an incest joke about the president and Ivanka and made no apology.

So why not do a beheading joke?

Because it’s beyond the pale. Because he has kids. Because he’s the president. Because ISIS actually beheads Americans.

Kathy Griffin apologized with what seemed like sincerity. But she needs to think about why left and right united against her in disgust. And other entertainers should realize that while a president is fair game for humor and satire, they shouldn’t even come close to the line that Griffin crossed.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.