By the time Los Angeles celebrity lawyer Lisa Bloom finished her robust defense of Kathy Griffin, you would have thought the mouthpiece was describing the Frida Kahlo of standup comedy meets a crusading suffragette.
About the only thing missing from this scene was a sobbing Griffin posing Pieta-like, cradling a martyred First Amendment in her arms.
This is always the first option when semi-famous people become infamous after doing something truly bone-headed – lawyer up and call a news conference to express some faux contrition.
Griffin appeared before an assembled media scrum to go all Zelda Fitzgerald on everyone in a rambling effort to wriggle out of her self-inflicted public relations disaster when she posed with a fake, bloodied head of President Donald Trump. Now that’s entertainment!
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The resulting furor over an image that suggested the president of the United States ought to be decapitated led to Griffin being fired from her yearly CNN New Year’s Eve broadcast and the cancellation of several appearances around the country. Not that anyone is likely to notice her absence.
From all the pained exhortations from Bloom that her client had become the victim of a media witch hunt, if you didn’t know what all the fuss was about you would have thought Griffin had painted Washington crossing the Delaware and inadvertently included a speedboat motor on the vessel.
Holding up the bloody severed head of Trump’s visage, Bloom insisted, was merely the “edgie work of artistic expression.” Makes you wonder if the lawyer received her art education by binge watching the Saw movies.
Indeed, Bloom argued Griffin has “every right to parody the president.” And she is right. Griffin certainly has a free speech right to vilify Trump to her heart’s content. Indeed, for many of us in the scribbling racket, Trump is more than the president. He is a columnist’s annuity.
Yet there is a line not to be crossed. And Griffin made a giant leap over it.
There is a treasure trove of material when it comes to Trump. The hair, oh the hair; his fleeting relationship with reality; the inane tweets; his successful effort to alienate as many allies as possible and an unchained ego that makes Narcissus look like Charlie Brown. This is like having Archie Bunker holding the nuclear codes. All fair game.
But one thing that rightfully remains out of bounds are jokes revolving around assassinating a president – any president. And that’s where Griffin found her career in the cross hairs. She’s hardly the first to go down the dark path. A recent video by the rapper Snoop Dogg depicted the shooting of a Trump clown.
And the fading rocker Ted Nugent was visited by the Secret Service after suggesting someone ought to murder then-President Barack Obama.
Bloom, who is an officer of the court by the way, suggested because of Trump’s climate change denial, his economic policies that hurt the poor and his history of mistreating women it is perfectly fine for Griffin to pose the possibility of killing him. And she charges hundreds of dollars in billable hours for this sort of addled legal acumen?
In a Gordian knot of illogic, Griffin used her news conference to wheedle out of her problems by suggesting she has been a victim of sexist oppression throughout her life.
No doubt Griffin, like many women, has been confronted by sexism throughout her career. But having experienced toxic sexism does not justify promoting the image of a beheaded president. It wasn’t “art.” It wasn’t free expression. And it certainly wasn’t funny.
It was stupid.
Griffin has every right to be as offensive, crass, obscene, boorish and crude as she wishes. And she’s good at it. But there are consequences to advocating violence against the president.
The writer is a columnist for The Tampa Bay Times.