Kathy Griffin has always been a provocative comic, and that made her an acquired taste for many, especially those who didn’t quite align with her political views. Still, many on the left of the political spectrum loved her, as did those who appreciated the self-described “hardworking, obnoxious, red-haired comedy girl.”
Then came the infamous image: Griffin holding a rendering of the severed head of President Donald Trump. The country erupted. Even many who dislike Trump and like Griffin denounced her, saying she crossed way too far over the line. The backlash against the photo was so strong, many wondered if Griffin had just killed her career.
Time went by, though, and the fervor died down. Griffin walked her position back, a bit, and now she is about to embark on yet another North American tour, this time telling anyone who will listen that the lambasting she got, which she calls an attack on free speech “can happen to you.”
Griffin acknowledges the photo with Trump’s head was not in the best taste or in the best interest of her career, but she also insists she’s the same provocative but lovable comic millions of fans came to appreciate. “I’m just trying to make you laugh,” Griffin told the Associated Press. But people are not laughing, at least not yet.
After the photo incident, Griffin lost gigs, lost sponsors and gained death threats. She was investigated by the federal government; a process Griffin says was out of line: “It shouldn’t happen to an American citizen… If there’s one amendment I’m familiar with it’s the First Amendment. I know it back and forth and it’s how I make my living. Am I shocking sometimes? For sure. Do I go too far? I hope so. That’s my job.”
Griffin insists she was exercising protected speech, and should not have been put in a position where she feared going out in public due to the threats. Griffin also argued that her entire career has been pushing buttons, so why now: “I really never thought that photo would take off at all. Like I’ve been doing ‘shocking’ things my whole career.”
Griffin does acknowledge the Public Relations process after the picture surfaced could have been handled better. Her apology came off as rushed and fell flat. Then, there was the press conference afterward that even Griffin described as “disastrous.” Since then, Griffin has tried to regain control of the narrative around her name.
So, as she prepares to hit the road, where is Griffin’s brand, and where is her career? She’s received some support on social media, but will that translate to ticket sales? Only one way to find out.
About the Author: Ronn Torossian is the Founder & CEO of 5W Public Relations, a top 10 independent public relations firm in the U.S.