On Monday’s Joy Behar Show on HLN, Bravo’s Andy Cohen defended Kathy Griffin’s joke about Republican Senator Scott Brown’s daughters being "prostitutes," which the left-wing comedian made last week on her "My Life on the D List" show on Bravo. Incorrectly claiming that the joke had inspired laughter from both CNN correspondents John King and Dana Bash -- when, in fact, King winced disapprovingly as Bash laughed -- Cohen rationalized:
Because his daughters – look, it's a sensitive topic. Clearly, he has reacted sensitively. He's upset. It was a joke. And we wanted to reiterate that it is a joke and this was not a real accusation. She had John King and Dana Bash laughing at her joke. And then we just reiterated it. Kathy went along with it obviously. That was her voice. And it was very clear this was a joke that was being made. It's a funny show.
Behar argued that it was acceptable to go after the adult children of politicians, contending that "if you trot them out a la Bristol Palin, we're going to make jokes about it," and wondered: "Does the GOP now have no sense of humor whatsoever left?"
After comedian Craig Shoemaker claimed that conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh had called Chelsea Clinton a "dog," Behar went on to charge that both Limbaugh and John McCain had called the presidential daughter a "dog."
But Behar’s accusation against Limbaugh dates back to November 1992 when, on the Rush Limbaugh television show, while discussing a New York Daily News piece on the then-incoming Clinton White House having a kid instead of a pet dog like the outgoing Bush White House, Limbaugh asked his production team to show a picture of the new kid in the White House and they displayed a photograph of former President Bush’s dog Milly instead of Chelsea. Limbaugh apologized immediately, and, the next week, apologized again and renounced any such harsh jokes about the children of politicians.
LIMBAUGH, FROM THE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1992, RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: My friends, we must apologize for something which happened on this show Friday night. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry.
Let me tell you very quickly what happened last Friday night. There was a new in list and new out list that was published in the newspaper. The writer said, "In, cute kid in the White House. Out, cute dog in the White House." Could we show the cute dog in the White House who's out, and they put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton back in the crew.
And many of you people think that we did it on purpose to make a cheap comment on her appearance. And I'm terribly sorry. I don't, look, that takes no talent whatsoever and I have a lot of talent. I don't need to get laughs by commenting on people's looks, especially a young child who's done nothing wrong. I mean, she can't control the way she looks. And we really, we do not do that on this kind of show.
As for McCain, Behar was probably referring to a crude joke about Chelsea Clinton’s paternity uttered in June 1998. But even in this instance, McCain sent a letter of apology to President Clinton, and conservatives like Sean Hannity and conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway (at that time, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick) seemed to agree that an apology was appropriate. From the June 19, 1998, Hannity and Colmes on FNC:
SEAN HANNITY: Senator John McCain, the man behind the failed tobacco legislation and last week. There, he told his guests an off-color joke, managing to insult Chelsea Clinton, the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Janet Reno all at once. McCain has since written a letter of apology to the Clintons. Well, while these types of jokes may be your standard fare on late night shows, is this the kind of behavior we should expect from a prominent United States senator, as well as other politicians? ... Jennifer [Laszlo], it would even if it was about Ken Starr, I doubt you, I bet then you'd even say, well, maybe he didn't cross the line then. But I think we'll all probably admit that this crossed the line here. Do you think this hurt his presidential aspirations?
HANNITY: To his credit, Kellyanne, he did apologize to his, to the President's credit, they did accept the apology here. What are your thoughts?
KELLYANNE FITZPATRICK, THE POLLING COMPANY: My thoughts are exactly that. That when someone comes forward and actually says I'm sorry, because those are two words I don't think Bill Clinton has ever said, that when a United States Senator comes forth and immediately says I'm sorry, that was in bad taste, I meant you no personal offense. And I'm told by people around Senator McCain that he genuinely felt the moment that he said that that he was sorry he said that, then it's not for me to judge him past that. And I'm a punitive person. We have to be forgiving. If he says he's sorry, enough for me.
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Monday, July 19, Joy Behar Show on HLN:
JOY BEHAR: She’s under fire right now from some politicians after making a risque comment about the daughters of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. Take a look.
[CNN’S JOHN KING AND DANA BASH HOLD UP A PHOTO OF REPUBLICAN SENATOR SCOTT BROWN FOR KATHY GRIFFIN TO IDENTIFY]
KATHY GRIFFIN, FROM BRAVO’S "MY LIFE ON THE D-LIST": Scott Brown-
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: That’s excellent.
GRIFFIN: -who is a Senator from Massachusetts and has two daughters that are prostitutes.
[JOHN KING SMIRKS WHILE DANA BASH LAUGHS]
[IMAGE OF KATHY GRIFFIN FREEZE FRAMES AS GRIFFIN DOES A VOICE OVER]
GRIFFIN, IN VOICE OVER: And now, a message from Bravo’s legal team: Scott Brown’s daughters are not prostitutes. We now return you to our regularly scheduled negativity.
BEHAR, AFTER LAUGHING: Okay, now, why did you put a disclaimer? You’re the person.
ANDY COHEN, SENIOR VP OF BRAVO: Because his daughters – look, it’s a sensitive topic. Clearly, he has reacted sensitively. He’s upset. It was a joke. And we wanted to reiterate that it is a joke and this was not a real accusation. She had John King and Dana Bash laughing at her joke. And then we just reiterated it. Kathy went along with it obviously. That was her voice. And it was very clear this was a joke that was being made. It’s a funny show.
CRAIG SHOEMAKER, COMEDIAN: People are missing, the joke was actually for him because, you know, "prostitute" as a verb, as in, he was prostituting his daughters.
BEHAR: What do you mean?
SHOEMAKER: His acceptance speech.
BEHAR: Oh. Well, he said they were available. He was making a joke. In all fairness, he was making a joke. Does the GOP now have no sense of humor whatsoever left?
SHOEMAKER: Only if it’s Rush Limbaugh. He can call Chelsea Clinton a dog – when she was 12 years old, by the way.
BEHAR: I think that was McCain. That was John McCain, I believe, said that. Right?
COHEN: Is that right?
BEHAR: Yeah, I believe so.
SHOEMAKER: Let’s Google that.
BEHAR: Well, I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t. They’ll find out and they’ll tell me in my ear. Go ahead.
GALINA ESPINOZA, LATINA MAGAZINE: Well, if you don’t know that Kathy Griffin is a comedian and this is a joke, I mean, where have you been? It’s just kind of funny that they would attack her because she’s so obviously – this is what she does and this is what people love for her to do.
SHOEMAKER: And, by the way, they should thank Kathy Griffin because now they’re going to have huge careers from it. I Googled them immediately, and I went, "Whoa, I’d watch them anytime."
BEHAR: Well, it’s a joke because they’re not – obviously, they’re nice girls and nobody thinks of them as prostitutes. So, for her to say it, she actually-
SHOEMAKER: But then again, though, the first picture that came up was the father posing with them in bikinis with clam shells, you know. They had clam shells. Honest to God, it’s the first photo. He’s there with them and she’s got clam – now, a whole new meaning to "happy as a clam," trust me.
BEHAR: Well, that’s true. They did pose in bikinis, but that still doesn’t make them prostitutes.
SHOEMAKER: It doesn’t, but the idea is that he’s putting out – in the world of law of attraction, he’s putting them out – he’s not saying one of them is a premed student. He didn’t say she’s a premed student. He said, "Look at this," basically.
COHEN: The bottom line is: It was a joke.
BEHAR: Okay, and I now know, we’re finding out that both Rush and McCain referred to Chelsea as a dog, okay. And that little cutey little girl is getting married. I’m happy for her.
SHOEMAKER: And, by the way, she was 12 years old at the time. And that’s something also that’s missing. These two daughters are both above 18.
BEHAR: Well, you know, the question is: Are the kids off limits? And I say no, if they’re a certain age, if they’re older. And if you trot them out-
BEHAR: -if you trot them out a la Bristol Palin, we’re going to make jokes about it, you know, that’s the story. Okay, now this story isn’t over, so be sure to watch this show Thursday night when Kathy stops here to give her side of the story.