Kathy Griffin Holds Decapitated Donald Trump in Photoshoot: Too Far for Publicity Stunt?

Kathy Griffin Holds Decapitated Donald Trump in Photoshoot: Too Far for Publicity Stunt?

At what point do we say something is too far? My opinion is that using photography as a medium to gain fame, be it good or bad, isn’t a new thing. But as time goes on, seemingly, these things are lacking in taste more and more.

Kathy Griffin recently faced a large backlash for a photoshoot that showed her holding Donald Trump's decapitated head. The old saying "there’s no such thing as bad publicity" seems to be a potential reason for doing something like this. The photographer, Tyler Shields, likely knew it’d go viral, which would spread his name everywhere; even if it’s in bad taste, people are still hearing his name. Personally, I’d stay away from something that goes quite this far with it. In the past, depicting something such as murdering a president even in “acting” was considered a threat and would garner a visit from the FBI, potentially with criminal charges. Now, with the Internet being what it is, people seem to get more brazen.

If someone didn’t like the current president and made a “clown nose” on an image in poking fun, ok sure, whatever. But heinous violence? Especially for a man with children, this is, in my opinion, super tacky. How would you like to have to explain that to your children when they asked what the deal was?

And for Kathy Griffin, is doing what she did, then apologizing somehow going to make it go away? Would she have apologized on her own based on her own morality if the Internet hadn’t flamed her for it? If so, why do it in the first place? If knowing doing something like that causes a firestorm, then apologizing (knowing it doesn't do any good) seems like that was the plan all along, a tacky publicity stunt to try to not become irrelevant in her own industry. Regardless of one’s political opinion, I don’t feel things should ever go this far.

What do you think? Is it worth it to participate in something like this for the publicity, or should morality come into play? And should her apology mean something?

Image source: Tyler Shields (uncensored image is displayed here)

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106 Comments

This is not politics; it's just common sense and decency. For most, guiding human instincts know this is too far... It almost doesn't matter whose head she was holding. Isn't our culture sick enough? Let's not celebrate death but celebrate life and the debate of ideas.

Frank Withers's picture

You have heard of Joel Peter Witkin right? This shot barely scrapes the surface of what he did...

Thanks for sharing, Frank. I had not heard of him. You are correct - barely scrapes the surface. Definitely quite twisted and apparently outside the bounds of U.S. law. Also very sad in that he seems to have needed to exercise what appears to be therapeutic "art" in Mexico; I say therapeutic in that the idea of his "work" apparently came to him based on a childhood experience of seeing a child's decapitated head roll out of a car following a horrific car crash. So, on the surface, it looks like the shock and horror of his childhood carried through his life as he continues working things out.

Drew Morris's picture

Mr. Wilkins images were not threatening to specific individuals who were still alive.

Agreed this is beyond common sense and decency and really has no place in a civilized society.

Frank Withers's picture

I am not at all offended by this when you compare it to say, the televising of ISIS executions

Felix Wu's picture

The mental incentives behind this shot I believe is nothing less than what ISIS was trying to achieve. This try hard publicity is very sickening.

Chris K.'s picture

Very sick and sad what this country is coming to

Jonathan Brady's picture

She's a comedian. Comedians say and do ridiculous things. And their "line" is a LOT harder to cross. I listen to a LOT of stand up comedy and when you hear comedians talk about their circle of friends and what it takes to get them to laugh, much less be offended, it's surprising.
On to the image itself, it's pretty boring, honestly. There's no context, IMO. We don't know why she'd want to decapitate our ever-capable commander in chief (when viewing the image in isolation). It doesn't stand on its own merits, as art.
So, my thoughts? Not offended. And don't care. And I don't feel like she deserved to lose her job over it (I believe I read she did). But then, I think our society is WAAAAAY over reactive regarding most things. Everyone makes bad decisions. Everyone has skeletons. Everyone, if their life was subjected to scrutiny all day (a la The Truman Show), could be crucified by the public and media on almost any day - especially if our private thoughts were no longer private.
Final words: get over it. No one will care next week therefore it's not worth our attention today.

Jonathan - I respectfully disagree. The context is quite obvious - it's a backdrop of hate and/or opposition. No one can turn their TV on without rants against the sitting president. I loved Colbert in the first year or two (pre CBS); thought his seeming conservative mockery was classic humour as irony. Loved Kimmel because I could watch without political rants - it was "good, clean fun" against politicians at large. Good natured and all.
Kimmel now gets about 12 seconds into his monologue and keeps going and going and it's about Trump, night after night... Colbert showed his stripes years back and now every show seems damn near a dedication to opposition. The line seems harder to cross because it keeps getting stretched and stretched. Also, just consider the history of television - a volcanic shift in the last 15 years, particularly with the advent of the internet. Yes, we all have skeletons but we don't all act on our very worst private thoughts. She's been gunning for Trump from day one - she just had to try harder. People would simply not have acccepted such an image of Clinton or Bush or Obama, even in those modern times. And yes, I do think you care, actually; you posted at length. Peace.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I care about the discussion, not the image.
Re: context, what specifically is she objecting to? To object to Trump as a whole is pretty ignorant. I guarantee there's not a person alive who disagrees with 100% of his positions. So, we need to know what she objects to, and that's not obvious in this image.

Thanks, Jonathan. I really don't mean to be argumentative! Just a point... I agree with your comment that no one disagrees with 100% of his positions... but I do think Kathy Griffin does 100% disagree with him as a human being and 1000% as president, so I do well understand your point - I just think that she, indeed, objects to him in his entirety. On that note, I well remember screaming at the TV during a debate that "I'll never vote for that S.O.B..." and yet...

Griffin's stunt was wrong. However, it illustrates the anger that builds in bubbles. The Right is in a similar situation with their history of equally disgraceful stunts aimed at Obama.
More recently, the GOP's muted response to the violence done to a reporter by the candidate Gianforte in Montana illustrated their support of this sort of behavior.

The current outrage on the right is a hyper-ventilated response from a position of faux respectability and decorum.

Political speech has been in a race to the bottom theses past years but was put into high gear by the current resident of the WH so I am not at all surprised by her stunt or by the GOP's position on the commentary from their side.

Christos Dikos's picture

If she's a comedian, why isn't she funny?

Donny Cotten's picture

She's a filthy pig and it has nothing to do with comedy.

Donny Cotten's picture

I wonder if you would have been so accepting if it were the head of Obama or Hillary.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I wasn't accepting. I was dismissive. Given a head swap, I would have been equally dismissive of anyone else.

Anonymous's picture

I think comedy has bounds..and this,one crosses them. It's a matter of decency. If ISIS decitations are unacceptable, then even in jest so must this. It's not politics to me

Tasteless, she can disagree with Trump but there are other ways to do that.

michael buehrle's picture

she crossed the line. had obama been in office people would lose their minds. the current president is an easy target so that's why it's done to him. if she broke the federal laws with this then she should be held accountable. she should not get a free pass just because she is "famous" or she apologized. she knew before she posted this that she was wrong, she was looking for shock value, and she got it.

Will Thomas's picture

What federal law do you think she violated? No one should go to jail for this, that is just crazy talk...

Jonathan Brady's picture

Agreed, Will. It's free speech, opinion expression. Not a threat.

Christos Dikos's picture

It is against the law to threaten the President. The Secret Service has opened an investigation.

No real sources have confirmed that is happening.

Christos Dikos's picture

several sources have. Secret Service twitter strongly hinted at it.

gabe s's picture

What about all those people threatening to lynch Obama?

Christos Dikos's picture

What about them? If they were considered a threat the SS investigated them as well.

Wes Jones's picture

Satire can be brutal, but in the end it *is* just satire.

I'm surprised to see almost everyone saying that she went too far. It seems like so many people hate Trump so much that they can justify stuff like this. I'm not sure I believe it's possible to go "too far" with a joke but if this were Obama's head, you better believe there would be some backlash.

Bill Larkin's picture

Lee, I almost wrote in the original, that if someone had done this with Obama, can you imagine how bad people would have been losing their minds, much more than they currently are, which is sad, because it's equally as heinous.

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