Kathy Griffin to be censored on Emmy telecast

Kathy Griffin's speech at the Emmy awards has certainly generated a lot of news coverage, but when the broadcast airs this weekend, her words will be sanitized for your protection.

Josh Wolf
Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.
Josh Wolf
3 min read
When Kathy Griffin decided to make a point by not thanking Jesus when she accepted the award for best reality program at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards she planned to offend people. She's a comedian and it's part of her shtick, but when people sit down this weekend to watch the awards show on E!, they won't hear what Griffin had to say. Just what could she have possibly said that was deemed to controversial for cable television? A new video up at CNN.com shows Griffin stating, "A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now."

Certainly it isn't the sort of thing you'd say at dinner after inviting over the local pastor, but it hardly qualifies as obscene either. Besides, cable television stations have few limitations to what can't be broadcast and Griffin's statement doesn't even come close. So why is E! censoring Griffin's comments?

After Kathy Griffin made her speech, William Donahue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil responded stating, "The self-described 'complete militant atheist' needs to make a swift and unequivocal apology to Christians. If she does, she will get this issue behind her. If she does not, she will be remembered as a foul-mouthed bigot for the rest of her life." Lauren Green at FOXNews also voiced her disapproval of Griffins statements.

So, you see, Kathy Griffin, Jesus has everything to do with you winning that award. You live in a free country where your abilities can be recognized if you're willing to work hard enough. That's at least the dream of America. If you'd been born in many other parts of the world, your daily activity might involve seeking out a way to survive, or even trying to avoid persecution and death. Luxuries like pursuing a career in the entertainment industry would never have been realized; luxuries like being able to insult the founder of a religion of forgiveness and acceptance would not have been possible.
Donohue has argued that Griffin's speech at the awards show is comparable to Don Imus' description of the Rutgers female basketball team as "nappy headed hoes," and that there would have been an entirely different reaction generated had her comments derided Muhammad rather than Jesus. It's true that a white woman going on the offensive against the Islamic prophet would've fired up greater protest, but it's also true that if Kathy Griffin were an Afghani women raised under the Taliban that such a statement would've rang like a war cry amongst certain portions of America.

With Griffin's statements generating such a backlash, E! decided it would be safer to simply make her words go away. Of course they've already received enough press by now that their absence in the telecast will once again make headlines, but the network apparently feels that pandering to outspoken Christians is a better investment than appeasing free speech advocates. Griffin, for what it's worth seems to have taken the entire matter in stride and told Reuters, through her publicist, "Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?"

Griffin's statement is certainly unpopular in this country dominated by Judeo-Christian values, but unlike the statements made by Don Imus, or Michael Richards, her remarks were not racist. Griffin's comments did not attack an outside group either. While Kathy Griffin apparently considers herself an atheist today, based on her statement following the incident, it appears that she was raised Catholic and her remarks demonstrate her rejection to the ideology she grew up under.

As I see it, E!'s decision to edit Griffin's acceptance speech demonstrates how we have degenerated into a society that no longer supports free and open communication. While government intrusions into the first amendment are frightening, maneuvers by corporations to stifle free speech are particularly troubling. With the government, the constitution and the first amendment still make for a fairly effective weapon, but these tools are meaningless in the context of a private business. Does E! have the prerogative to deem Kathy Griffin's speech verboten? Yes, but that certainly doesn't mean they should exercise it.