(CHRIS PIZZELLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Chelsea Clinton and Debra Messing were among the liberal celebrities and pundits who voiced disgust at Kathy Griffin’s extreme and violent vision of anti-Donald Trump protest art: a photo of the stand-up comedian holding a fake bloody head meant to resemble the president.
The image, first obtained by TMZ, is from controversial photographer Tyler Shields, who routinely shoots A-list celebrities in shocking poses, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Kathy Griffin Beheads Donald Trump in Shocking Photo Shoot (PHOTO) https://t.co/UM9GHRrFf5
Not surprisingly, many on Twitter were not pleased with the photo, including — again not surprisingly — President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. He cited the photo as an example of what he sees as the left’s moral degeneracy and hypocrisy, especially given that his father regularly faces accusations that his incendiary rhetoric against women, journalists, Muslims and immigrants has encouraged violence against those people.
Disgusting but not surprising. This is the left today. They consider this acceptable. Imagine a conservative did this to Obama as POTUS? https://t.co/QdghcbIjS7
“Disgusting but not surprising,” Trump Jr. tweeted. “This is the left today. They consider this acceptable. Imagine a conservative did this to Obama as POTUS?”
But Chelsea Clinton, whose mother Hillary Clinton lost her presidential bid to Trump, agreed that the photo crossed a line. The daughter of former President Bill Clinton, tweeted: “This is vile and wrong. It is never funny to joke about killing a president.”
This is vile and wrong. It is never funny to joke about killing a president. https://t.co/zIiuKoMyFw
Pro-Clinton supporter and ardent Trump critic Debra Messing also sided with Donald Trump Jr. — perhaps for the first and last time ever. She agreed that the photo was pretty horrifying, especially when people were rightly condemned for hanging effigies of former President Barack Obama.
It wasn’t right when peoplel hung lynched Obama effigies, just as what Kathy Griffin did isn’t right now.
Facing pretty much universal criticism, Griffin took to Twitter to defend the photo, saying that she, too, doesn’t condone violence but that she wanted to make “noise” by mocking “the Mocker in Chief.”
She also suggested a caption for the photo that would refer to Trump’s notorious insult of former Fox News host Megyn Kelly during the presidential campaign. During a debate, Kelly subjected the then-candidate to tough questioning on his misogynist comments on women, which prompted Trump to say she was probably on her period.
Griffin said her photo should be captioned: “There was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his…wherever.”
1/ I caption this “there was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his…wherever” Also @tylershields great Photog/film maker. pic.twitter.com/eKqr44NOl6
Photographer Shields also defended his work as “art” and said the image shouldn’t be taken “literally.”
“It’s art,” Shields told the Daily News. “I cannot stress enough that I respect the presidency of the United States and would never want anyone to be killed. But it’s art. When you make art, you can do anything you want.”
Left-leaning outlets like the Daily News, MSNBC and Slate didn’t dispute the idea that Griffin and Shield have a First Amendment right to produce pretty much any image they want.
However, they also objected to the photo and Slate’s Sam Adams said, if nothing else, the photo is a “bad idea.” He wrote, “Fortunately, we don’t have to imagine what might happened if a midlevel celebrity directed similarly violent imagery towards the president of the United States.”
Adams recalled rocker Ted Nugent, during the 2008 campaign, inviting former President Obama to “suck on my gun” and a Pennsylvania mayor last month who posted a photo of a noose with the caption, “Barry, this is for you.”
He said Griffin and Shields were being especially disingenuous in saying they wanted to make a powerful, necessary statement, given the exploitive way they released the photo. Griffin presented the photo on the gossip website TMZ as a highly touted exclusive, complete with a teasing video that told readers to “not tell anyone.”
Adams said that liberals who condemned “the copious images of President Barack Obama being lynched or of he and his wife and children being depicted as monkeys should condemn this one, too.”
While some on Twitter agreed with Griffin and Shields that the photo is art and protected free speech, though not to their taste, others, who labeled themselves as liberals and Trump opponents, shared the sentiment of Clinton, Messing and others.
@kathygriffin @tylershields Thanks for setting the anti-Trump movement back about as far as you could. Idiot.
@TMZ I am no fan of the man, but that definitely crosses the line. And I am staunch liberal.