A tweet Kathy Griffin posted depicting a beheaded President Donald Trump has landed her in hot water.
On Tuesday, Griffin posted a photo of herself holding up Trump’s bloody head. “I caption this ‘there was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his … wherever,'” she wrote in the tweet, referencing a statement Trump once made alluding to Megyn Kelly’s period. The image, taken by Tyler Shields, was up for several hours before being deleted.
The photo received mostly negative attention on Twitter, with users responding with criticism for Griffin’s photo and telling her she should delete it. The photo was also reported to the Secret Service, who referenced the tweet and acknowledged that they were investigating the matter.
Later that evening, Griffin posted a video apologizing for the photo, describing it as “way out of line.” However, her apology didn’t stem the tide of media criticism.
The comedian and actress was fired from her New Year’s Eve special contract with CNN on Wednesday. CNN spokesperson Shimrit Sheetrit called Griffin’s tweets “disgusting and offensive,” and New Year’s Eve show co-host Anderson Cooper said he was “appalled,” calling the image “clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate.”
Squatty Potty, a toilet footstool company, announced that it too was ending its contract with Griffin, as well as pulling planned advertisements featuring the comedian in light of the offensive tweets. Bobby Edwards, CEO of Squatty Potty, called the tweets disturbing and said they contradicted the values of the company.
In addition to earning the ire of her employer and co-workers, representatives across political lines have criticized Griffin for posting the photo. Trump tweeted about the incident Wednesday morning, saying “Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”
Donald Trump Jr. and Melania Trump both issued statements criticizing the image and the media’s response to it. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said it signaled how politics has entered a “vile and repugnant” territory.
She also drew criticism from well-known liberal political figures, including Chelsea Clinton, Soledad O’Brien, Luke O’Neil, and Mikel Jollett, who tweeted “Hey @kathygriffin: In America, we don’t kill terrible Presidents. We impeach them.”
Debra Messing tweeted, “It wasn’t right when peoplel (sic) hung lynched Obama effigies, just as what Kathy Griffin did isn’t right now.” Messing referenced a trend among conservative social media users during Barack Obama’s presidency of posting effigies, photos of a lynched Obama and other racially charged photos meant to criticize him.
According to U.S. law, threats against the safety of the president are considered a felony, including on social media. However, because Griffin’s image did not directly advocate for Trump’s death or encourage anyone to commit violence against him, it counts as protected free speech according to Stanford University Law Professor Nathaniel Persily.
Persily said the distinction between wishing someone dead and promising action to cause their death or inflict harm is the key difference, and the reason Griffin’s photo is not a crime.
Discussions about the state of political discourse have become more frequent in the past year. Griffin’s photo comes on the tails of a Politico survey that found 43 percent of Americans support impeaching Trump, while 45 percent oppose it. In addition, polls found that 56 percent of Americans feel the country is headed on the wrong track, 53 percent disapprove of Trump’s performance and 73 percent disapprove of Congress’s performance.
According to the Pew Research Center, 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats believe the opposing party is dangerous for the future of America, suggesting that politically motivated anger may increase in the future as politics become more strained.
[Featured Image by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images]