Head to head: Comedians should not be held to higher standards than the president

Leta McWilliams

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

This is a “Head to Head” column. Read the opposing viewpoint here.


Kathy Griffin was fired from CNN’s New Years Eve program on May 31st after posing for a photo shoot with a fake, severed Trump head. The photo is obviously staged, and in no way could it be mistaken for the real president. Kathy Griffin should not have been fired from CNN over the photo of her holding Trump’s severed head because her job is to be satirical comedian. Other celebrities, including our own president, are not being held accountable for actions that are just as bad, if not worse.

According to many comedians, including Louis C.K., no topic should be off limits for a joke. Part of a comedian’s job is to make something dark into something funny. Other comedians, such as Stephan Colbert, have said way worse things than holding a picture of a poorly duplicated severed Trump head.

Griffin’s job is satirical comedy, which means that her entire celebrity status is a joke. Griffin has built her comedy career on being extremely crude, including her 2007 Emmy Award speech. This photo isn’t a surprise. The public should assume that everything she does is for comedy, and nothing she does should be taken seriously. I agree that Griffin’s photo was in poor taste, but the only reason she should lose her job is because it just wasn’t very funny, not because it was offensive.

As touched on previously, other celebrities have done things equally as bad as posing for a picture. Though it is illegal to threaten the President of the United States, no other celebrity has been penalized for creating equally offensive actions. Comedians such as Colbert, Bill Maher, and the cast of Saturday Night Live have made countless jokes about Trump’s physical wellbeing, as well as having a love affair with Vladimir Putin, unsparing of any details. Snoop Dogg released a music video of him shooting a Trump clown in the face and received nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Since the election, most comedians have had a go at making all sorts of jokes at Trump’s expense, including jokes about his assassination. The Kathy Griffin incident is no different. Verbal vs. visual jokes should not make a difference, because in the en, they mean the same thing. Griffin shouldn’t have been fired when every other comedian in America has been making similar jokes.

In my opinion, our own president makes more offensive remarks than the Kathy Griffin picture could hold up to. Trump claimed that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th avenue and still win the election. He told 2nd amendment activists to go use their freedom on Hillary Clinton. Those claims are just as offensive as the photo. Griffin should not have been fired if our own president cannot be held to the same standards. Comedians are being held to higher standards than our own president; if Griffin is being fired for a single picture, Trump should at least be held accountable for his offensive statements.

Some would argue that because Griffin is in the public spotlight, she shouldn’t be able to make such extreme statements, because people might see this as a celebrity endorsement of the assassination of the president. However, Griffin is a comedian and not a news oriented celebrity, and actions like this should not be taken seriously. If we start taking away freedom of speech from celebrities, it is a very slippery slope of unconstitutional behavior. More credible celebrities, even political commentators such as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, have said things equally offensive to Griffin’s picture about liberal politicians and received very little backlash.

If Griffin is being fired for a single picture, President Trump should at least be held accountable for his offensive statements; Griffin should not lose her job if Trump is not held accountable for his actions.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LetaMcWilliams