What did Kathy Griffin do? Trump mask scandal explained as actress claims she was 'erased,' not canceled

Kathy Griffin recently opened up about her 2017 Trump mask controversy (Image via Jeff Golden/WireImage)
Kathy Griffin recently opened up about her 2017 Trump mask controversy (Image via Jeff Golden/WireImage)

Kathy Griffin has opened up about the Donald Trump mask controversy that reportedly affected her career in the entertainment industry. The actress-comedian was criticized mainly in 2017 for posing with a mask representing the former U.S. president’s severed head.

More recently, she spoke to The New York Times and shared that the consequence of her action went beyond the “cancel culture:”

“I wasn't canceled. I was erased… I honestly never had a desire to make enemies. But I keep making enemies."
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The Suddenly Susan alum also claimed that she was blacklisted from the industry for being a “middle-aged woman” without a “high-profile agency, studio, or network.”

She further cited performers like Dave Chappelle, Jeffrey Toobi and Jeremy Strong. She said that the alleged patriarchal double standards of the industry led to her situation being handled in a negative light as compared to other controversies created by male artists:

"When you're an artist known for being 'difficult' and you’re a man, they write New Yorker profiles about you and then Aaron Sorkin writes an open letter in support. But when you’re 'difficult' and you’re a woman, they call you a pain."

During the interview, the comedian even expressed her disappointment about being replaced by Andy Cohen for CNN’s New Year's Eve special. Amid the ongoing drama, Kathy Griffin was also diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021 and had to undergo surgery to remove part of her organ.


A look into Kathy Griffin’s Trump photo shoot controversy

Kathy Griffin allegedly received death threats following her Trump photoshoot scandal (Image via John Sciulli/Getty Images)
Kathy Griffin allegedly received death threats following her Trump photoshoot scandal (Image via John Sciulli/Getty Images)

In 2017, Kathy Griffin found herself in the middle of a controversy after conducting a Halloween photo shoot with photographer Tyler Shields featuring a Donald Trump mask.

The comedian was seen posing with a replica of the former president’s head covered in blood-like ketchup in the photo. The picture was immediately flagged on social media and earned widespread criticism from Republicans and Democrats.

The Secret Service reportedly contacted Griffin in response to the photoshoot. According to The Independent, threats made against an elected president or vice-president “knowingly and willfully” are considered class E felony under federal law.

The law also considers such actions as a “threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm” upon the officials. At the time, attorney Dmitry Gorin said the photoshoot was a “parody” and the comedian meant no harm.

Attorney Lisa Bloom added that actions against Griffin only stated that people are subject to “lose their job” if they “criticize the President.” Donald Trump acknowledged the situation and said Griffins “should be ashamed of herself.”

The Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List host apologized for her actions during a press conference and admitted that she “crossed the line.” However, the actress faced harsh consequences in response to her controversial action.

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The Emmy Award winner was immediately relieved of her decade-long duty of hosting CNN’s New Year's Eve special. At least 25 theaters canceled her upcoming shows and SNL star Al Franken withdrew Griffin’s invitation from his Giant Of The Senate book launch.

The comedian allegedly received thousands of death threats, including several on her mother’s answering machine and her sister Joyce’s hospital room, who was being treated for cancer at the time. Griffin also spent large sums on legal fees to be exonerated from the Department of Justice investigation.

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Kathy Griffin continued to hustle to regain her place in the industry despite the scandal and documented the entire Trump mask controversy in her concert film A Hell of a Story.

The actress recently appeared on the HBO Max series Search Party after a few years of break. The comedian also told The New York Times that she is yearning to get back to “make people laugh” once again.

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Edited by Srijan Sen
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