Kathy Griffin: I’m not afraid of Donald Trump

Comedian responds to backlash over picture, fears career is over

Kathy Griffin at a news conference (CNN)

LOS ANGELES (WATE/AP) – Comedian Kathy Griffin addressed a photo showing her holding a bloody head resembling President Donald Trump.

Griffin and her attorney, Lisa Bloom, told reporters Wednesday the comic is receiving death threats and was contacted by the secret service due to the picture. She also accused the president and his family of trying to ruin her life.

“What’s happening to me has never happened, ever in the history of this great country. Which is a sitting president of the United States and his grown children and the first lady are personally, I feel, personally trying to ruin my life forever, forever. And you guys know him, he’s never going to stop.”

Though Griffin apologized within hours of the images appearing online Tuesday, the photo was met with swift and widespread condemnation. Trump later tweeted that Griffin “should be ashamed of herself” for posting the images.

Griffin said she has had five of her stand-up gigs canceled due to the backlash. She was also fired as co-host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve program. However, the comic says she will continue to use the president as fodder in her stand-up act.

Previous story: CNN sacks Kathy Griffin over Trump video as backlash builds

“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump, he’s a bully. I’ve dealt with older white guys trying to keep me down my whole life, my whole career. I’m a woman in a very male-dominated field,” said Griffin. “I love what I do. I love making people laugh more than anything in the world.”

The comedian repeated her claim that the video was a parody, meant as a pointed comeback to Trump’s remark last summer that former Fox News Channel personality Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of wherever.”

“Regarding the image that I participated in, that apology absolutely stands,” said Griffin. “I feel horrible. I have performed in war zones. The idea that this made people think of this tragedy and have been touched by this tragedy is horrifying, it’s horrible. Trust me, if I could redo the whole thing, I would have had a blow-up doll and no ketchup. I make mistakes. I’m an out-there comedian. I’m an in-your-face comedian.”

White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Republican Party spokesman Mike Reed called the press conference a “desperate attempt” to change the conversation.

“Kathy Griffin’s career was over long before she attempted to make a disgusting joke about decapitating the President,” Reed said. “What she did was wrong and President Trump and his family have every right to condemn it.”

Griffin appeared surprised at the number of cameras and reporters in a packed conference room at her lawyer’s office, her hands shaking at one point when she took a sip of water. She switched between contriteness to combativeness during the press conference, during which she attempted several nervous jokes that drew laughs mostly from her attorney, Lisa Bloom.

Bloom said the comedian has a First Amendment right to make fun of the president.

“Whether or not you get, or like, her artistic expression, in America, Kathy has the right to parody the president,” Bloom said. “She never imagined it would be misinterpreted as a threat of violence against Trump.”

Did Griffin break the law?

The photographer who took the picture, Tyler Shields, told the New York Daily News that “when you make art, you can do anything you want.” Griffin said that ultimately she and Shields went too far.

While some on social media are calling for legal action, Lisa Bloom, Griffin’s lawyers, said the comedian has a First Amendment right to make fun of the president.

“Whether or not you get, or like, her artistic expression, in America, Kathy has the right to parody the president,” Bloom said. “She never imagined it would be misinterpreted as a threat of violence against Trump.”

However, WATE 6 On Your Side legal analyst Greg Isaacs said she could potentially face legal action.

“She could get in a lot of trouble because the Secret Service has original jurisdiction over threats to the president and there has been a lot of litigation over what constitutes a specific threat,” said Isaacs. “Under federal statutes, it has to be a knowing, willful threat.”

During a political rally, Robert Watts said if he went to Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson would be the first man he would set his sights on. In a 1969 ruling, Isaacs said the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Robert Watts and said the court needed to look at the context of the threat and intent.

“If you look at the context, is it because she is a comedian that she hasn’t violated the statute or was her intent, if you take out what she does for a living, something that a reasonable person would view it as a specific threat? I think it raises an intriguing legal question that Jane Doe posting this on social media may have broken the law, whereas Kathy Griffin gets fired from CNN and may not be prosecuted.”

The Secret Service did send out two tweets that appear to address the controversy.

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