Don’t be disappointed, but Kathy Griffin isn’t bringing her infamous fake severed head of President Trump to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday.
“I’m only going to bring my head, but that’s attached to my body,” Griffin said. “I’m not sure the feds would find the joke is funny a year later as they didn’t find it funny a year ago.”
Griffin, who will be a guest of the Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, talked about the controversy in a wide-ranging exclusive interview that revisited the fallout from the photo and her subsequent resurgence, which includes a worldwide comedy tour, a sold-out upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall and a newly announced event at Radio City Music Hall.
Although it’s customary for the president of the United States to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Trump has indicated he won’t appear. It’s the second consecutive year Trump has decided to skip it.
But Griffin jokingly predicted Trump would make an appearance. Asked if she was disappointed over Trump’s announcement that he won’t attend and the resulting missed opportunity to meet her face-to-face, Griffin envisioned an unusual scenario.
“Because Sarah Huckabee Sanders is supposedly going…he’s going to do like a ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and make a Sarah Huckabee Sanders skinsuit and sit there wearing a Sarah Huckabee Sanders skinsuit with just his crazy eyes popping up and we could listen in,” Griffin said.
After posing in a photo last year with a fake Trump head looking as though she just decapitated the president, Griffin faced criticism from both the left and the right.
Much of the controversy, however, was ginned up by Trump-friendly outlets like Breitbart News and Trump associates, including Donald Trump Jr., who said she should be “decimated.” After being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Griffin declined to discuss many details — such as the current location of the mock head — but did say the most surprising aspect of the fallout was the swift reaction against her.
“I didn’t know that the Trump machine had this apparatus ready to go and waiting for an incident like my photo because I’ve said controversial things my whole career and Trump himself has had me roast him,” Griffin said. “He actually had me roast him as part of a challenge on ‘The Apprentice.’”
Griffin said one group that didn’t desert her was the LGBT community. A group of drag queens on Fire Island, she said, made their support known after the controversy in a group video.
“I don’t know what the party was but there were like five drag queens dressed as me and a couple of them had Trump heads done,” Griffin said. “A couple of them just had like other, silly things to hold up. I saw it on Twitter or something. Somebody sent me that and I was like of course the drag queens are ahead of their time again. Yes, the LGBT community as usual got it, didn’t get freaked out by it.”
The Blade announced last month that it had invited Griffin to join its table at the Correspondents’ Dinner.
“Kathy Griffin has stood up for LGBTQ visibility,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff. “She has marched with us, spoken out against injustices and, yes, made us laugh. You don’t throw your allies under the bus and the Blade is happy to host her in D.C. and excited to welcome her to our table.”
But there was one member of the LGBT community who wasn’t as forgiving. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who hosted a popular New Year’s Eve special with Griffin until last year because of the controversy, said on Twitter he was appalled by the photo and called it “disgusting and completely inappropriate.” Griffin said falling out with Cooper was “the one that hurt.”
“I didn’t hear from him for five months and he just sent me a couple of texts and they were kind of bitchy and so, no, things have not improved,” Griffin said.
But a year after the drama, Griffin is in the midst of a resurgence. Coming off her yearlong tour of Europe, Griffin has an upcoming show at Carnegie Hall, which sold out immediately after it was announced, and another scheduled appearance at Radio City Music Hall on June 25.
As part of her comeback, Griffin said she’s most looking forward “to telling this whole story.”
“To not be able to work in your own country because of something that is nothing but a ridiculous sort of falsified faux-outrage media moment perpetuated by the fucking president of the United States — or as I call him, the accidental president, because this whole thing’s a big accident as far as I’m concerned — and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and the Department of Justice — it’s so extreme that it actually became funny,” Griffin said.
As part of her routine, Griffin said she reads some of the threats she’s received from Trump supporters, whom she said are “not so good with grammar.” One of the threats Griffin described was relayed to her from a theater owner, resulting in her having to cancel a performance.
“They’re not used to getting calls,” Griffin said. “I play venues where they do shows like ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Stomp’ and ‘Lion King’ and stuff. They’re not used to getting calls saying if Kathy Griffin goes on stage, I’m going to shoot her in the cunt, decapitate her and then shove her head up her cunt. You do that enough and theater owners get a little nervous.”
Despite the drama, desertions and investigation by federal law enforcement officials, which Griffin said makes her a “living example” of what can happen to someone who opposes Trump, the comedian said that shouldn’t deter individuals from speaking out against him and they should “absolutely do it.”
“My advice is absolutely get out there and speak out so nothing should deter us,” Griffin said. “And I’ll tell you why: Our lives depend on it. I don’t feel the gay community is as safe that they were two years ago. I, as a woman, I absolutely don’t feel as safe, and I mean physically, politically, professionally, we’ve got Nazis marching in Charlottesville and we have a president saying it’s both sides, so I think that this is the time when everybody should be extremely vocal and not just online, but you know, with your ballot and marching and all the ways that activism has worked.”
Griffin’s observation about the state of LGBT rights under Trump is spot on. Among the attacks on LGBT rights are Trump’s proposed transgender military ban, the Justice Department denying that federal civil rights laws protect LGBT people and “religious freedom” executive actions that enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
In the face of all this erosion of LGBT rights, Griffin remains optimistic the nation will recover once a new Democratic administration is elected because, “the idea that the Democrats don’t have rock stars is bullshit.”
“I think we have an embarrassment of riches,” Griffin said. “It’s the other team telling us that Kamala Harris isn’t great or Booker isn’t great or Elizabeth Warren isn’t great.”
Griffin, however, had some choice words for supporters of 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has indicated he may pursue a 2020 run against Trump.
“By the way, don’t let the Bernie Bros fuck shit up either,” Griffin said. “Like, just realize that whole Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Sanders thing — Bernie Sanders fucking loved it when he was mentioned in the Podesta emails.”
With the congressional mid-term elections nearing, Griffin said Americans are now marching who “would never do that sort of thing two years ago” and political awareness is at an all-time high, which she said will be key to making change.
“I’ve never been so aware of every single local candidate,” Griffin said. “Every attorney general is important, all this stuff, all the down-ballot stuff. So I think it’s good that people really are engaged and I think most of us get that we’re kind of in a fight for our lives.”