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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Anonymous's picture

Thumb up by mistake, I can't take it back:) So poorly written it makes one wonder.

Korey Napier's picture

I did not vote for Trump, but this is clearly a despicable photograph. I wasn't a fan of Obama, but was repulsed at all the burning dummies of him and the like. Like Patrick said, this was done by someone with a big following and a severed head made to look graphically real. Let's not be a nation that accepts something as barbaric as this as funny. I see a picture like this and my mind instantly thinks of videos and pictures of ISIS and the heartlessness of people that have no regard for human life. A people group that causally tortures and beheads innocent people as if it's as normal as drinking a cup of coffee in the morning is not something I would want our culture to resemble. Fortunately, it seems as though most people did not find it funny.

luxludus's picture

Saw the (uncensored) version, and thought 'Stupid! Who thinks of that crap?' Then I realized who was holding the "head," and I went - 'Ah. Of course...'

I definitely think this is in bad taste. BUT, it is EXACTLY what the 1st Amendment was written to protect. No need to protect speech that everybody agrees with; or that's so PC it doesn't offend anybody.

So, yes, definitely protected speech. Definitely should not open up anyone to "legal action" - now, that does not mean there should not be *CONSEQUENCES*; but no "punishment" for sure. Looking at the aftermath, I think Ms Griffin is feeling these consequences right now... And that is how it should be.

Jon Winkleman's picture

Griffin, unlike Alex Jones or Breitbart, does not incite actual physical violence or hate. She is a wildly inappropriate comedian who always has pushed the boundaries. Though I am no fan of Tyler Shield's plagiarism of other photographer's work, the image of someone holding a severed head has been a subject in art for millennia. I do not buy the special snowflake clutching of pearls that the mere image without Trump was inappropriate and something our delicate eyes should never glance upon. (below are classic images of Perseus with Medusa's head along with one of David with Goliath's) I also remain skeptical about the WH reports that an 11 year old Barron Trump thought this was reaL. Donald is always talking about how smart the kid is. There was not as much outrage when Ann Coulter was pleading for someone to assassinate Bill Clinton. There was no equivalent outrage with the multiple images and effigies created by the far right depicting a lynched President Obama, however unlike Griffin, they were not satirists and actually meant it. I personally think it is one of Tyler Shied's better and more original images. I am not shocked that Squatty Potty or other corporations would distance themselves from a spokesperson who went so political. However the image is good and appropriate political satire and commentary.

dale clark's picture

I agree. I think "The visual" has the most impact vs verbal "threats" etc. Right or wrong...I think we react differently to things we see. NFL player Ray Rice received a "mild" suspension for beating his wife...it was not until the Video surfaced that things got severe. Would have the LA Riots have occurred if there were no video of Rodney King being beaten over and over again? Probably not. I trust you are correct about Coulter-Alex Jones making threats or "suggestion" of such (don't really know-listen either one to be honest). If one of them held up a photograph with a gun to the head of a candidate, I think the reaction would have been much more fierce.

dale clark's picture

One more thing. Trump's son was just the typical "that shocked my children" reaction that everyone (left and right) does. I believe the wife of George Stephanopoluos (spelled wrong---news host on ABC) was stating that their daughter was worried about being raped or something along those lines after election. Just typical soundbite drama for the National Enquirer crowd. To be honest, I have lived thru quite a many elections and none of the Dooms day gloom (Reagan--nuke war, Clinton--socialist society, etc) has ever came to pass. But..critics of any current administration will tell you "This time it's true"

Roger Morris's picture

From simply a photographic point of view, Shields misses the boat completely (as does Griffin) in that the effort has absolutely zero context, and thus zero purpose.

She's holding up a head ... "OK", so what?

I get the overtly childish "shock" element to this photo, and I get the artists "right" to do their art ... but for a photograph that was released nationally, by two nationally known celebrities, the photo means absolutely nothing, has absolutely no context, and displays no overtones to imply artistry or intent.

No thought was put into the concept of the photo, and (like all photos that have no thought put into them) it translates into an uninteresting, ultimately pointless photograph.

On a personal note, I dislike Trump profoundly ... but this photo doesn't even remotely resonate with me on that level.
It's photographic crap.

dale clark's picture

It's getting to the point that Trump is too easy of a target for celebrities. There is nothing bold about picking on Trump, Jesus, etc. What was bold were the comic artists that drew the offensive comics featuring Mohammed a couple yeras back and had bounties on their heads. That was bold. Pretty much picking any person or tradition in the United States is pretty easy stuff IMO.

Mike Robinson's picture

Am I the only one to remember, during the election, the meme (a composite) of Trump holding the head of Hillary as Medusa?

Robert Nurse's picture

Being an Obama supporter and overall fan boy, this is what I thought immediately. If Obama had been depicted this way, I would have been furious! Then again, I've seen Obama depicted in ways that would curl your hair: in nooses, racially stereotypical caricatures, etc. But, either way, this depiction is wrong on its face. But, if anyone is outraged thinking Obama and past presidents haven't faced this, they either just landed on Earth or they need to dig a little deeper. And, BTW, karma's a bitch.

jonas y's picture

Sum up, I think she is wrong and the message is sickening. Whether she broke the law is not my experty, but I personally lean towards freedom of speech. However, The one thing we can all agree is... This is not funny, what a terrible comedian with a stupid message!

Michael Matos's picture

But images of lynching a Black President were ok, come on now.

Korey Napier's picture

Not at all. I think the difference is that it was done by someone who has a large following and is a public figure. This naturally made it a more viral story (not to mention how graphically real the head was made to look). From a social impact, there's a big difference between some random nobodies burning dummies and a public figure doing what they did. Both are wrong in my opinion and both should be similarly condemned, but both will have different backlashes based on the popularity of who is involved.

Anonymous's picture

Unfortunate

David Cannon's picture

Precursor to my comment: I am a social- and fiscal conservative. I very reluctantly voted for Trump in the general election, although I think he's a foolish man (lesser of two terrible options in my opinion) -
I think this should be protected free speech so long as it really isn't a threat to the actual subject represented in the image. Showing that we still have some level of decency in our country, what should happen did happen: people from all sides have condemned it (which is what I would've done had it been Obama's head-in-effigy even though I regularly disagreed with his worldview and policies), thus she is prosecuted and convicted in the public square. As a result, there is no resulting precedent that starts the slide down a sippers slope that leads to any disagreement with a POTUS being outlawed.

Anonymous's picture

Pixellating the image is an insult to adult intelligence, especially in a photography mag where the photo is supposed to be under discussion. As The Beheaded One would say, "Sad."