VFW Declares Kathy Griffin Unprotected By First Amendment

Veterans_Of_Foreign_Wars_LogoWe have been discussing how Howard Dean and other Democratic leaders have been declaring that there is an exception for speech that they claim to be hate speech. Now they appear to have been joined by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) which have declared that Kathy Griffin’s photo of Trump’s severed head is unprotected under the First Amendment.

VFW National Commander Brian Duffy issued a statement that “The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. strongly condemns comedian Kathy Griffin’s incredibly revolting attack on the President of the United States . . . . What she did was not humorous nor should it be protected speech or expression. Playing to an audience with a severed head is what our enemies do. The USO should end its relationship with her.”


I can certainly understand the desire to end the relationship with Griffin, as we previously discussed.  However, it is highly disturbing to see the VFW adopting the growing view that hate speech is unworthy of free speech protection. It is of course a dangerous myth.  We do not need the First Amendment for popular speech. It is designed to protect those who anger and upset us.  I found Griffin’s picture to be grotesque and horrific. However, it was also pure political speech — worthy of the highly level of protection in our society.


117 thoughts on “VFW Declares Kathy Griffin Unprotected By First Amendment”

  1. I find it very harsh that he has been going after only women that do not care for him. It’s a pity that he’s using our money to get away with these things. It is well known that he does not care for women only for one thing. I do not see how anyone could even be married to someone like him.

  2. This isn’t a hate speech issue, since Kathy Griffin neither endorsed attacking Trump, nor did so on the basis of any kind of protected class. The reason people like myself support hate speech legislation isn’t because we find it “revolting,” as the VFW does with this, nor because it “angers and upsets us,” as you put it. It’s because we recognize that there’s kind of an actual danger to allowing people to circulate publications endorsing ethnic cleansing, hate crimes, & so forth.

    I want to stress, this is not semantics, this is an important distinction. Merely saying something reprehensibly bigoted, such as “Hollywood is just Jew propaganda” may be A problem, but it’s not THE problem. If we had hate speech laws, someone could still share that opinion, they just couldn’t publish an article arguing that they should learn from the plans in Mein Kampf how to fix that. An effective law must have nuance, as neither a completely hands-off nor a blanket ban protect anyone.

    Speaking more personally, I would argue that hate speech legislation shouldn’t be handled criminally, but civilly. This avoids unnecessarily punitive sentences like jail time, & actually gives a return to society, more specifically the people targeted by the hate speech.

    1. (Apologies if this multi-posts) For anyone saying this constitutes a specific threat, I would like to add this:

      “In a 1969 ruling, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Robert Watts, a young man accused of threatening former president Lyndon Johnson. Watts said at a 1966 political rally that he was “not going” if he was drafted to serve in Vietnam and added that “if they ever make me carry a rifle, the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.”

      The Supreme Court ruled Watts’ statement, which is much closer to meeting the definition of a threat than Griffin’s photos, was merely “crude political hyperbole.””

      Now, I don’t know much about Robert Watts’s specific case, but I agree with the general principle. While I would argue that you shouldn’t say things like that, if for no other reason than that you don’t want to deal with the Secret Service investigating you, it’s nothing but pointless spite to prosecute someone if there’s no evidence that they’re making a realistic threat.

  3. Here’s a link to Ms. Griffin’s recent press conference. In the unlikely event she is to face a jury at the conclusion of the Secret Service investigation, I can’t imagine this working in her favor.

  4. The Courts have decided that death threats are not protected free speech, and may be criminalized. What KG did was meant to evoke a level of hatred suggesting a Presidential assassination. I would defer to Secret Service, but if they define a veiled threat on the President’s life as having occurred, it’s time for a visit to KG from the FBI.

    We are living amidst an alarming breakdown on social and civic norms. The 1st Amendment is subordinate to preservation of Constitutional government….that is….freedom of political speech is a benefit of an orderly society with a functioning legal system. Freedom of speech cannot be allowed to go so far as to undermine public order, civility and due process. Beware civil libertarians….there are irresponsible, hedonistic elements in America who don’t understand how to build and maintain institutions, only how to wreck them. And, they will use whatever liberties they feel entitled to to wreck havoc and destroy public trust.

    KG got fired from CNN, and she apologized, so there has been from her an affirmation of the norms that were violated. I hope the FBI visited her to explain the line she crossed. I hope Madonna got visited. The same laws that apply to you and I apply to entertainers. Presidential assassination gags are not to be tolerated.

    1. Edward Snowden is a spergy computer geek who knows nothing of the criminal element in this world. He’s not terribly trustworthy on any subject with which he is familiar.

  5. I think his head removed from his body is a very nice response to all the insults Donald J.Trump stated against other people. The mouth can be as fatal with the words it emits as the spade cutting a head. You reap what you sow.

    The first amendment is vital for a healthy republic (what we call democracy) And if we tier the law we end up with no law. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Donal J. Trump ended up being elected our President regardless that he never stopped being insulting and divisive with his words. Americans need to make up their minds since they elected him mostly because of his insulting way with words. Freedom of speech must always be protected.

    1. Sorry, sister. The person most severely insulted was RB Cruz and his son, Ted Cruz. There are people who care about the sensibilities of these two men and their families, but none of the people who care are progtrash.

      1. OK, but then why did the media “take the bait” when Trump tweeted an old photo of Rafeal Cruz standing next to LHO? The most candidate Trump asserted was that Cruz Sr. was “with” LHO. The media, in their insatiable thirst for irresponsible conflict theatrics generation, immediately impugned Trump for claiming that Cruz Sr. had something to do with JFK’s assassination. If the media were limited to covering facts, such a “story” would have been ignored, because there was no connection between Ted Cruz and JFK’s murder.

        I don’t blame Trump for the undisciplined, unprofessional infotainment business’s transgressions. Just the opposite, I credit him with exposing those excesses, and leading a populist revolt against the MSM.

        1. OK, but then why did the media “take the bait” when Trump tweeted an old photo of Rafeal Cruz standing next to LHO?

          It wasn’t RB Cruz.

  6. Really JT?
    I get your desire to have broad protections for speech. I think Trump is a man-baby Ass. But this comes really close to “let’s kill the President”. Sorry, too much even for this libertarian minded individual.

    1. I hear you, but it is when the chips are really down, that protection of free speech counts.

  7. Their position may be that they believed she was inciting a mob to assassinate President Trump. It is my understanding that “go kill that guy!” is not protected.

    However, I disagree with them. It is true that some maniac who saw her may use that as an excuse to go try to kill Trump, but that would only apply to the criminally insane. A great many on the Left have been openly fantasizing about murdering Trump. That’s disgusting, deeply disturbing behavior. But unless they actually plan to do it, or are specifically enlisting the aid of others to do it, then it is just ugly free speech. That’s why so many in Hollywood have not been tackled by the Secret Service already.

    It is a slap in the face for all those who serve, but they should defend her right to make unhinged statements.

  8. I think what she did is disgusting and disturbing. I don’t find it funny, and I don’t believe in violence. So many liberals today are utterly and completely lacking in tolerance or compassion (one could include ‘intelligence’ as well, formal book learning does nothing to eradicate personal ignorance). HOWEVER. I will defend her right to her views and her voice to my dying breath. I don’t have to listen to her, look at her, or support her, that is within MY power. Before anyone goes on about ‘the children’, it is also a parent’s power and a parent’s responsibility (if you yourself are too insecure to provide that guidance, you really should have thought twice about having children). We are often victims only of our own reticence. Like so many on the left, she is a gutless turd, and I don’t respect her. I do respect her rights.

      1. Roscoe Coltrane – she is gutless because she did not apologize to Trump.

      2. Did she apologize to President and Mrs. Trump? NO, SHE DIDN’T. Go back and review what she said. My take is Socialist Kathy got caught doing something she believed would be well received by everyone in Hollywood and New York and to hell with our President and having respect for his office. It blew up in her face. TV, Radio and Nightclub owners understand that about HALF of America can’t stand what she did and smartly removed themselves from hanging with Kathy. Not surprisingly, some moderate Democrats (not the real Socialists) thought what she did was deplorable, disgusting, and downright sick. Mrs. Trump is right…someone who would do something of this nature has serious mental problems but then we all know Comedy is filled with some very tragic figures.

        1. “Yes. He is a gutless turd because he kills for fun and sport

          Don’t know any real hunters, eh? Hunters do not kill for fun, They use as many parts of the animal as possible

      1. You’re question doesn’t make any sense. ‘Mongrel’ is a precise description of Obama. It’s vaguely pejorative. You’d have to be mildly outre to utter it in most circumstances.

        1. Please. Precise?
          What about compassion for “human beings”?
          Your contempt for the appellate industry is worthy of consideration, your condoning “Mongrel” to describe another human being is just plain hateful.
          Especially a wordsmith of your caliber.

          1. I may or may not be a serious person, but I play one on the internet. I’m not stepping out of character to claim that the use of the term ‘mongrel’ by Ted Nugent is a matter of interest or even particularly insulting. If you want to strike these poses to amuse yourself, that’s your hobby.

          2. As hateful as you when you describe a sport you know little about?

      2. Big difference between calling someone a mongrel and holding up a bloody head.

  9. The USO should end its relationship with Gifford: comedians are supposed to make us want to laugh, not vomit Nothing in the constitution prevents sponsors from pulling their ads from shows they don’t like. Much ado . . .

    1. Yes, just pull out. They don’t need to involve the courts. What a waste of national resources, she isn’t worth it.

  10. This was no less disturbing than the President Obama burnings in effigy and hangings. Did the Obama girls find their father’s image treated as it was any less disturbing than Trump’s young son? If this was free speech so is Kathy Griffin’s. If not, then it is wrong no matter what side of the aisle the individual is from. It is just one further example of how far we as a society have slipped.

    1. The Obama “girls” probably never saw those images. Too busy smoking dope and hanging out on Hollywood sets.

    2. Who burned Obama in effigy?

      A hapless rodeo clown was fired from his job for wearing an Obama mask, so I tend to doubt anyone burning him in effigy has a name and a face known to an employer.

  11. I wish she had just used the “I’m an artist” excuse.
    I see it as purely artistic expression.
    I’d love to see a Warhol 4 image silkscreen.
    Put money on it folks derivatives of this will be in art galleries soon.

      1. Her name isn’t ‘Robert Stacy McCain’ or ‘Glenn Reynolds’, so Del Harvey and the “Trust and Safety Council’ at Twitter don’t care what she says.

    1. There are no ‘war crimes’ of consequence. What there is is a need by damaged individuals with no important skills to feel better about themselves. Accusing others of ‘war crimes; is how they do it.

    2. Jill, just wanted to mention I thought your post on Griffin of the other day, starting out, “She should not apologize…” was an absolutely excellent rant pointing out the irony of relativism between Griffin’s nasty prank, and Trumps support for true life and death human rights abuses.

      While I agreed with the commenter who pointed out, sub-thread to yours, that Griffin was not thinking as deeply as you about her performance, just doing her “shock jock” thing, you larger point about the President and some of the grizzly acts he is behind in the M.E. was spot on.

      I’ve never liked Griffin or Howard Stern or any of these jock jocks, but I agree with Professor Turley, that it is when things are really bad, such as Griffen’s horrific Trump head bomb, that we must be most vigilant to protect the first amendment.

  12. Unconditional threats of violence are not protected free speech and I suppose the VFW, in its anger at the talentless waif, just went overboard in its definition of the word. That makes their position understandable but not correct. It was a juvenile attempt at humor by outrage which rarely goes well. It takes a magnificent mind akin to Voltaire’s to pull that off; not a mad one like Griffin’s. Reprimand the little child and send her to her room without her makeup. Denying her free speech just makes her more cranky and us less safe. The market will punish her a la Target, Kelloggs, ESPN, NFL and the list goes on. To the elite, that’s the most motivating punishment of all. Heard any Target press releases trumpeting bathroom rights lately?

    1. mespo – they have cancelled Kathy Griffins concerts for at least the next month. And three top PR people have come and said her TV conference was the worst thing she could have every done. Playing the victim was not the way to go. She will hang on to her loyal gay followers, but she may have to take some time off.

  13. I do think JT has been searching for conservative attacks on free speech to try and counterbalance the flood of attacks on speech from the left.

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