In an interview with The Cut clearly intended to help rehabilitate her career after her disastrous "Trump beheading" stunt, Kathy Griffin pulls the curtain back on what was going on behind the scenes with some of her professional and personal relationships, including with former CNN co-host Anderson Cooper. After Cooper condemned her gruesome photo shoot on Twitter and failed to reach out to her for weeks, Griffin said she told him their friendship was "over."
The Cut's Yashar Ali, a friend of Griffin who had discouraged her from spreading the photo that proved to be professionally devastating, spoke at length with Griffin about the fallout from the stunt and provided a few juicy details, including a section on the end of Griffin's "best-known celebrity friendship" going back 17 years. The beginning of the end of the friendship started with Cooper's tweet on the night that Griffin posted the beheading image.
"For the record, I am appalled by the photo shoot Kathy Griffin took part in. It is clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate," wrote Cooper.
Ali says that while Griffin "acknowledges that Cooper was in an untenable position," she feels that "their long friendship afforded her a call or text message beforehand." Here's an excerpt from the Cooper section:
In the following days, Griffin says four of Cooper’s CNN colleagues reached out repeatedly to Griffin to check on her and offer private support (I independently confirmed this). But Cooper didn’t contact Griffin until August 10, CNN confirmed to me.
On July 26, when asked about Griffin on Andy Cohen’s talk show, Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Cooper claimed that Griffin was still a friend. “Yeah, we’re still friends, and look I said what I said about — I didn’t think what she said was appropriate, but I wish her the best and I hope she bounces back,” he told Cohen.
The fact that Cooper was telling people publicly they were friends, while not checking in with her, hurt Griffin deeply. When he finally reached out to her in a series of text messages, she told him their friendship was over.
A source close to Cooper tells me that Cooper was “shocked and upset by the photo, and while he was not ready to talk to her personally about it, he still considered her to be a friend, and was publicly supportive when asked about the controversy.”
Ali also provides some behind-the-scenes details about Griffin's rocky relationship with CNN President Jeff Zucker, with whom she said she had "clashed regularly." Griffin told Ali that in 2015 she called Zucker to see if he would pay her more for the New Year's Eve co-hosting role. According to Griffin, he was "livid," firing her before eventually rehiring her. For the 2017 show, she says Zucker gave her a limit on Trump jokes:
Griffin says Zucker was livid and told her that he could get comedian Samantha Bee to take her place. Zucker, Griffin says, called her agent and publicist to say she was fired. They eventually made up, but not before Zucker cut Griffin’s pay (she did get a raise in 2016).
Griffin also says that before the 2017 broadcast, Zucker called her at home to tell her she could only do four jokes about Trump (the first time there had ever been limits on her material during the special). When Griffin pushed back, she says Zucker said to her, “I don’t need this, you don’t need this. He’s come after me harder than anybody. I have to deal with this guy.” Griffin reluctantly agreed to the limit. Zucker, through a CNN spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Another claim Griffin makes is that CBS Corporation board of directors member Arnold Koplelson emailed her a creepy prewritten letter to Trump that he said she needed to mail to the president or "your career is over." Here's Ali's summary of the letter Griffin shared with her:
The letter includes phrases like, “Now with my world crumbling around me, I am listening for the first time about the great things you have done and are doing. How stupid I was to follow the lies from the ‘Left.’ It took my terrible mistake to finally see the false news,” and “I do not deserve what I am asking of you. I am begging you to open your heart and forgive me.” Kopelson said that Griffin should “exclusively release the letter to Fox Broadcasting,” adding, “Do not send to the other networks.” “If you don’t do exactly what I’ve written, your career is over,” Kopelson wrote. A spokesman for CBS Corporation declined to comment. When I called Kopelson for comment, he said, “I’m tied up” as soon as I explained the reason for the call, and hung up the phone. Kopelson did not respond to a request for comment via email.
Griffin also said that when the Trump beheading scandal erupted, Trump-nemesis Rosie O'Donnell wasn't even on her side, asking her, "What is James Foley’s mom going to think when she sees this?"
Apart from the horrific idea to post the picture, Griffin also seemed to regret her chaotic press conference, after which, she said, she "couldn’t even find a reputable crisis-management expert to take her on as a client, and she still hasn’t found a publicist."
On Tuesday, as part of her attempted rehabilitation tour, Griffin appeared on Sunrise Live to make clear that she is "no longer sorry" about the beheaded Trump stunt, though once again she got more pushback than she appears to have anticipated.