Jess’s Take: History of Celebrity Backlashes and Controversies

Welcome to another installment of Jess's Take. Due to the Roseanne news, I thought I would give my take on celebrity firings and backlashes. Please note that this is an editorial and is not intended to reflect the views of TVRG readership. But let's make one thing clear.

Roseanne's cancelation proved that actions do have consequences. The way I see it, even under the First Amendment, you are not free from the consequences of your speech. Private companies and corporations have the right to fire a person for tweets like Roseanne's, and ABC had the right to cancel her show even if it was the highest rated show on the network. In short, it was the right call. Not only for human decency, but also for mutual respect.

But let's not forget that other celebrities have overstepped their bounds and put their foots in their mouths, leading to backlash including suspensions and firings.

1. Kathy Griffin
Comedian Kathy Griffin brought on backlash last summer by tweeting out a photo taken from a photoshoot of her holding a severed and bloodied dummy head resembling Donald Trump, the current and 45th president of the United States. She apologized afterwards, saying: "I beg for your forgiveness." and "I went too far." In a statement, CNN said: "We found what she did disgusting and offensive. We are pleased to see she has apologized and asked that the photos be taken down. We are evaluating New Year’s Eve and have made no decisions at this point." 

As a result, CNN fired her as co-host of the annual New Year's Eve Live broadcast and subsequently replaced her with Bravo host Andy Cohen. Griffin has since rescinded her apology and is doing stand-up comedy tours, after Michelle Wolf's White House Correspondence Dinner remarks. However, she does not have the same amount of fame as she used to because of the backlash.

2. Bill Maher
Last summer in June, Bill Maher on his show Real Time with Bill Maher invited Republican Senator Ben Sasse for an interview. When Sasse commented, "We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.", Maher commented back by referring to himself as a house n-word. The comment got backlash on social media. The next day, HBO, in a statement, said: “Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”

Maher released an apology, stating the following: "Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show. Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry." 

The backlash continued for about a week and rapper Ice Cube came to the show and conversed with him on white privilege. Maher did not get fired, but one thing is for sure, he probably would not say that word again. 

3. Michael Richards
In 2006, former Seinfeld star Michael Richards went on a racist rant after being heckled on stage at The Laugh Factory by African American audience members during his stand-up routine. He made references to lynching and repeatedly said the n-word multiple times. He apologized in a strange manner, multiple times. As a result, he fell off the celebrity radar and his career was never the same. 

He starred on Kristie Alley's show Kristie, which was canceled after one season on TV Land. He appeared on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld, and has since retreated out of the spotlight. Unlike Maher, the racist rant will haunt him forever. At least Maher said the n-word once. 

4. Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin stuck his foot in his mouth when he went on a foul-mouthed, homophobic rant against a New York Post photographer back in 2013. Baldwin called the photographer a “c–k s—cking f-g.”, and MSNBC responded by suspending him for two weeks, and then fired him by canceling his weekly show Up Late with Alec Baldwin. 

The rant drew fire from many gay rights organizations afterwards prompting the response. Baldwin had a history of anger issues so it is no surprise homophobic rants would be included in the mess. 

Whether it is from Kathy Griffin's severed Donald Trump dummy head from last summer, Alec Baldwin's homophobic rants from eons ago, Bill Maher and Michael Richards saying the n-word, and so on, any action that is repugnant and contrary to human decency should be held accountable regardless of political persuasion. These are some of the celebrities with controversies similar to Roseanne, but the list goes on and on with Gilbert Gottfried getting fired as the voice of the AFLAC duck for making crude and racist jokes against Asians and so on.

If I missed any other controversy, let's direct our attention to the comment section.

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