While the rest of the media world may have moved on to more consequential things like, say, America possibly pulling out of the Paris climate accord, Fox News’s morning gabfest simply can’t stop talking about Kathy Griffin.
Two days after the comedian apologized for posing with what looked an awful lot like the bloody, severed head of Donald Trump, the president’s favorite morning-show hosts were the only ones left talking about it on television.
Griffin’s name was not mentioned once on MSNBC. Nor did it come up on CNN, which announced on Wednesday that it was severing ties with its New Year’s Eve co-host. Yet somehow, Fox & Friends managed to wring two full segments out of the mostly dissipated backlash.
With nothing new from Griffin to discuss since her apology, the hosts first turned their attention to former Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, who from some reason decided to emerge from relative obscurity to mock 11-year-old Barron Trump’s reportedly terrified reaction to seeing the Griffin photo on TV. “Barron Trump saw a very long necktie on a heap of expired deli meat in a dumpster. He thought it was his dad & his little heart is breaking,” Jennings tweeted. That prompted a predictably outraged response from Donald Trump, Jr. who decried “another low from the left.”
Those reports that said Barron Trump initially thought the photo was real did not stop Fox from repeatedly showing an unedited version of it on screen. “It is the photo creating outrage across the nation,” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said, almost giddily, before tempering her excitement to offer a trigger warning of sorts to parents watching with young children at home. “Kathy Griffin has since apologized, but was it sincere?” she asked viewers. “You be the judge.”
Then came a debate on the issue between Republican strategist Lisa Boothe—who linked Griffin’s actions to everything from a Saturday Night Live writer’s controversial Barron Trump joke to Snoop Dogg “assassinating” the president in a recent music video—and “comedian” Ben Kissel, who described himself as a “libertarian centrist” and pointed out that, in the past, it has been the right that has championed free speech and railed against “political correctness.”
Kissel also raised the spectre of Ted Nugent, who spent years threatening to kill President Barack Obama, once telling him to “suck on my machine gun.” Like Griffin’s photo, Nugent’s comments prompted a Secret Service investigation. But that didn’t stop him from landing an invite to Donald Trump’s White House earlier this year alongside Sarah Palin, who also spent this week lambasting the “sick audacity” of Griffin’s photo.
And where was Nugent this Memorial Day morning? On the couch at Fox & Friends, teasing the possibility of a 2018 Senate run and gushing over the “hell raiser” in the White House. "There's no limit to what I'd be willing to do to help make this country great,” Nugent told the hosts.
For his part, in a radio interview with conservative pundit Ben Ferguson, Nugent argued that equating his words with Griffin’s photo is like comparing “apples and grenades.” He added, with no sense of irony, “I think we can all agree, that she went beyond the pale. There’s never a time you should threaten and poke fun at the beheading of anybody, much less the president.”