Lena Dunham's controversial comments defending a “Girls” writer accused of raping an underage girl made headlines last week, but it’s far from the first time the actress’ words have caused an uproar. The author and producer is no stranger to controversy, and she’s often had to apologize for the things she says.
Most recently, Dunham issued an apology on Twitter after she defended a male writer and executive producer from her former HBO show “Girls” who was accused of raping an actress when she was 17 years old. Dunham and “Girls” showrunner Jenni Konner defended Murray Miller, saying the accusation was “one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.”
Shortly after, writer Zinzi Clemmons announced her resignation from Dunham’s online feminist newsletter, Lenny Letter, and called on “women of color – black women in particular – to divest from Lena Dunham.”
In her apology, Dunham, 31, said she “naively believed” that defending Miller “was important.”
Here are some of the other controversies and apologies from Dunham:
Donald Trump versus Dylann Roof
Dunham compared President Trump to Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 because of their race.
“Not only is he a racist, but he’s a racist with untreated mental illness. So under [different] circumstances he’s Dylann Roof,” she tweeted. The larger conversation was regarding professional athletes who kneel in protest of race relations during the national anthem.
American Airlines accusation
While traveling in August, Dunham complained on Twitter that she overheard two American Airlines employees engaged in “transphobic talk” at JFK International Airport in New York. She said she heard two female attendants “talking about how trans kids are a trend” and that they would “never accept a trans child and transness is gross.”
The airline responded to Dunham’s tweets and direct messages with a promise to review the incident. However, American Airlines said it was “unable to substantiate these allegations.”
Dunham, based on what she told the airline, was in Terminal 4 when the alleged conversation took place. American Airlines operates out of JFK’s Terminal 8 – on the opposite side of the airport.
Animal shelter bites back
Dunham claimed she had to give up a dog she had adopted from a Brooklyn shelter because he was aggressive due to “terrible abuse.” She said she gave him to a canine rehabilitation center in Los Angeles.
But the animal shelter, BARC, said the pet did not have a history of abuse or behavioral issues. A spokesman said it would not have let Dunham adopt such a dog given “she’s a new star.”
Election Day conundrum
Did Dunham truly vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary?
A reporter tweeted out Dunham’s supposed voter information that showed she was not officially affiliated with a political party in the state of New York – which has closed primaries. That would mean she wouldn’t have been able to vote in the Democratic primary.
But during the April 2016 primary, Dunham posted a photo of herself on Instagram with the “I Voted” sticker. She also said on Twitter that she did vote and is a registered Democrat after her “political awakening.”
But this wasn’t the first election when Dunham’s voting status was called into question. A now-defunct New York political blog claimed she didn’t vote in the 2012 reelection of then-President Barack Obama despite her appearance in a video for the campaign.
The blog said Dunham was registered in Brooklyn and did not vote in a general election since she moved from her former home in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca. Dunham responded on Twitter, saying that she voted by affidavit at her old polling place with her father.
Dunham also likened voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein to her experience sleeping with an older guy who constantly has a girlfriend.
Lena Dunham wishes she had an abortion.
During an episode of her podcast, “Women of the Hour,” in December 2016, Dunham described visiting a Planned Parenthood facility in Texas where she was asked by a younger girl to share her own story about abortion.
“I sort of jumped. ‘I haven’t had an abortion,’ I told her. I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion,” Dunham recalled. “Even I, the woman who cares as much as anybody about a woman’s right to choose, felt it was important that people know I was unblemished in this department.”
“No I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had,” she added.
After much backlash, Dunham said the comments were a “distasteful joke.”
“My words were spoken from a sort of ‘delusional girl’ persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance … and it didn’t translate,” Dunham explained.
Odell Beckham Jr. fumble
“It was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, ‘That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog,’” Dunham said.
She continued to speculate that Beckham ignored her because she was wearing a tuxedo and did not look like someone he would want to sleep with.
Later, on social media, Dunham apologized for her words, saying she did not want to “intentionally contribute to a long and often violent history of the over-sexualization of black male bodies – as well as false accusations by white women towards black men.” She added that she felt insecure at the event.
In March 2016, Dunham apologized to Spanish magazine Tentaciones after she wrongly accused it of photoshopping her image. After her initial accusation, the magazine revealed that it did not retouch the photo – and the picture had actually been signed off on by Dunham’s own team. ‘
“Of course, we are aware that any media outlet needs to be responsible for what it publishes, but this photo was previously approved by the agency, the photographer and your publicist,” the magazine said in an open letter. “We used the original [photo] that they sent us without applying any kind of retouching.”
Dunham later thanked the publication for “being so good natured about my request for accuracy” in a lengthy Instagram post, in which she also talked about body shaming and then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Comparing blogs to domestic violence
While discussing the cruelty of the internet, Dunham compared blogs Gawker and Jezebel to an abusive husband – something she would later apologize for.
“I used to read Gawker and Jezebel in college and be like, ‘I can’t wait to get to new York where my people will be to welcome me.’ And it’s like, it’s literally, if I read it, it’s like going back to a husband who beat me in the face – it just doesn’t make any sense,” Dunham said in 2015.
She later apologized but said the comparison wasn’t meant to be taken in jest.
Bill Cosby and the Holocaust
During an interview with Konner for Time Out New York, Dunham compared producer Judd Apatow’s “obsession” with the rape allegations against Bill Cosby to an obsession with the Holocaust.
She later apologized on Instagram, saying “I’m already aware comparing Bill Cosby to the Holocaust wasn’t my best analogy. With love from your special rape-hating Jew friend LENA.”
Dunham’s 2014 memoir “Not That Kind of Girl” sparked controversy – especially on conservative websites – as she detailed her relationship with her younger sister. Dunham said she tried to coerce her sister in kissing her and “relaxing” on her.” She said she also examined her sister’s private parts when she was seven and her sister was one.
“Basically anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl,” she said.
On Twitter, Dunham called the accusations that she molested her sister “really f-----g upsetting and disgusting.”
In her memoir, Dunham also detailed being sexually assaulted by an Oberlin student she identified as “Barry.” There was ensuing controversy of just who Barry was and what details – if any – Dunham took liberty with when she described the encounter.
Some of Dunham’s deleted tweets have been hailed as problematic and racist.
One, from 2010, said, “Just found my creative journal from 2005. It begins: ‘I dreamed I was a prostitute and that I molested a little African American rodent.’”
Another, in 2011, said, “An uncool thought to have: ‘is that guy walking the dark behind me a rapist? Never mind, he’s Asian.’”
Dunham also deleted a tweeted photo of herself in 2012 with a scarf wrapped around her head to resemble a hijab. She captioned it, “I had a real goth/fundamentalist attitude when I woke up from my nap.”
The problem was she tweeted it right after a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
“Been in production and completely not reading the news. Didn't realize what a bad time it was to make a joke like that. Not a good excuse you guys, but an excuse nonetheless. I'm glad you keep me informed and I'm deleting those tweets,” Dunham said in an apology.