Kathy Griffin: Hollywood Figures Still Fear Trump, but I Feel ‘Emboldened’

Kathy Griffin'On Your Feet!' musical opening night, Arrivals, Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 10 Jul 2018
Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Kathy Griffin will perform on Saturday night at DAR Constitution Hall in D.C., as part of her comedy tour that draws heavily on the fallout from a May 2017, photo shoot in which she held up a prop severed head of President Donald Trump.

In the immediate aftermath, she lost concerts gigs, was dropped from CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage, and was condemned by the White House.

She says that since then, “not a lot” of entertainment industry friends have come back publicly to her side, given the controversy.

“People are still afraid of Trump in a way that makes me even more emboldened,” she told Variety. “As a woman who has been around for a long time, I am 57, I want people to see me still standing, because I do sense a lot of fear everywhere, not just in Hollywood, but in every workplace.”

Griffin was just outside the fence of the White House on Thursday, the latest performer to appear at nightly protests called the Kremlin Annex.

As she took the makeshift stage, she gave the finger in the direction of the Executive Mansion, and later told stories about the time she met Trump on the set of “Suddenly Susan” in the 1990s, and of his hair.

“I think he uses a lot of illegal Aquanet from Mexico because that is where the good stuff is,” she said.

The official view from the GOP isn’t that showbiz figures fear Trump, but that he’s making them crazy. They have been featuring the photo of Griffin holding the severed head in campaign ads and videos in an effort to show how the left has become “unhinged.”

Griffin came to the White House protest with bodyguards, and at times during her speech had to talk over several counter-demonstrators. Trump wasn’t at the White House, but in Montana for a rally.

“Tonight is a Trump rally, and I guarantee you someone has got a picture saying ‘Kathy Griffin equals ISIS’ or something,” Griffin said. “And so they keep perpetuating it, because he’s in trouble. So they love to pull out me or [Colin] Kaepernick or Madonna or whoever. I am in their little shiny object bag of tricks, and so it just made me want to resist even more.”

In the aftermath of the photo shoot, Griffin said her tour was canceled and she was put under federal investigation for “the charge of conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States.”

“So that shouldn’t be happening to a citizen who takes a picture that aggrieves this president,” she said. “So that is my mission, to prove that you can knock me down, but I am the fighter that won’t get the knockout.”

In the furor that followed, she apologized for the photo shoot, but later told the BBC that she was taking it back in what she said was a response way out of proportion to what happened. She got death threats and was put on the no-fly list, she said.

“A lot of people are still offended by the photo, and it has been manipulated many ways, but now I can finally laugh at the idea that even one person thought I was in ISIS or Al-Qaeda,” she said. “But at the time, nobody was laughing. It has taken me a long time to figure out, how can I find a way to make it funny, make it accessible?”

Her show is called the “Laugh Your Head Off World Tour,” and Griffin said the event is more than 80% sold out. She said she wanted to hold it at the Kennedy Center, where she had played four times, but they kept pushing the date back.

“I am just on a mission to literally go city by city to tell people about my two-month investigation, my testimony under oath, because people should know, you could hate that picture as much as you want, but it wasn’t illegal,” she said.