On Friday, TMZ spotted Andy Cohen coming out of the airport and asked a few questions about his upcoming CNN New Year’s Eve gig with his friend Anderson Cooper. The co-hosting spot became available after Kathy Griffin was fired for the bloody Trump mask photo, which CNN and her former co-host and friend Anderson Cooper publicly condemned.
In the TMZ footage, Andy pulls a Mariah with, “I don’t know her” and plays dumb, obviously toying with the pap. Click here to see the video. Kathy immediately responded on Twitter:
Even when it's on tape, there are doubters? He is NOT kidding w paps. Was my boss for 10 years. Treated me like a dog. Deeply misogynistic https://t.co/geqFsLtWy1— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) October 27, 2017
Did Andy know what he was doing? Yes, of course. He didn’t want to engage, but wanted to throw a little shade at the same time. Beyond the CNN gig, he might have some latent animosity towards Kathy. In this 2015 WWHL clip, Andy implies that Kathy’s departure from Fashion Police was disingenuous. It’s interesting that in the clip, their mutual friend Anderson Cooper declares himself Team Kathy.
On Saturday morning, Kathy posted a 17 minute YouTube video. The impetus for the video was a voicemail from Harvey Levin, which she plays in full, including his phone number. (Her justification is that she’s been incessantly doxxed since the Trump photo and she believes TMZ’s coverage had a hand in that.) Kathy is angry and defiant and she makes some incredibly good points. She goes on several tangents for the shock factor, including a non-starter anecdote about Andy Cohen and cocaine (it has already grabbed the first batch of headlines). She details contract negotiations with Jeff Zucker at CNN (which was a story included in her interview with The Cut) that didn’t go her way. She namedrops Bravo and NBC execs she feels didn’t support or “protect” (a word she uses often) her and complains about Andy getting his own talk show. She jumps topics and time frames and networks, but there is an underlying thesis about Harvey Levin (and his property, TMZ), Donald Trump and to a lesser degree, Andy Cohen and the unimpeded influence and impact men can have on a woman’s career and reputation. She also blames the continued crisis in her career to the what she labels “faux outrage” coaxed by TMZ’s wall-to-wall coverage of her after the Trump photo blew up, including an accounting of her cancelled shows. (At one point, she refers to Harvey Levin as a “gay man Kellyanne Conway”). She doesn’t argue about the facts of their reporting, but she does contend that she was a target of negative stories as part of a concerted effort to damage her reputation beyond repair and make an easy mark for online harassment. She hops between stories of the three men, comparing Andy (mainly, his role as the Ruler of the Real Housewives) and TMZ’s ageist and body-shaming coverage of women. Kathy is trying to weave her experience about being double-crossed, passed over, and labeled as difficult into one misogynistic tapestry. Her pain is real and it’s raw and the point she’s trying to make is about the implications these shows and stories have on women in show business and beyond.
For Kathy, these men don’t exist in a vacuum; they are all working together to suppress her in a system that maintains and protects their power. And part of that power – both in Hollywood and in Washington – is based on misinformation and miscommunication and misdirection, on short online attention spans. On lack of research. As I’ve already mentioned, many outlets are fixating on the “Andy Cohen does cocaine” story, including PEOPLE; the PEOPLE story leads with Andy’s denial. And that’s not the core of Kathy’s grievance. The big bad that she’s challenging is misogyny. This is the rot. Unfortunately, over 17 minutes, what’s been extracted instead is a side detail about Andy Cohen’s alleged drug habits. The worry, then, is whether or not that big bad will continue to be interrogated.
Kathy’s vulnerability right now is understandable; for the last 5 months she’s been in crisis mode, personally and professionally (her sister passed away last month) and she’s been under US federal investigation. She split with her long-time agency and several tour dates were cancelled; she’s now touring overseas (she’s called it Laugh Your Head Off). There are a lot of parallels here to what happened with Joan Rivers in the Johnny Carson era. In the mid-80s, Joan, a frequent guest host on The Tonight Show, was offered her own late night talk show on a fledgling network (Fox), with her husband, Edgar as producer. She took the opportunity and Johnny never spoke to her again. Keep in mind that at that time, TV hosting gigs were incredibly rare because there were only a few networks, and Joan had spent years as a stand-up comic, writer and guest, while men like Bill Cosby and George Carlin went off to their own shows.
Fox was a disaster and shortly after she and her husband were fired, he died by suicide. As detailed in her documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, she went on to scratch out a career and basically invent red carpet fashion coverage (there was also QVC, Hollywood Squares, and Broadway). The contradiction of Joan was that she played up the “wash-up” reputation but was actually quite successful – a shtick Kathy occupied on her Emmy winning reality show My Life on the D-List.
Like her mentor Joan, Kathy also understands the rhythm and hierarchy of fame and what the fallout will be here. In a moment of defiance in the video, she tells Harvey Levin that whether or not he was calling to blackmail or threaten her, she doesn’t give a shit. This puts TMZ in an interesting editorial position because anything they post about her will have an extra level of scrutiny for bias, at least for a little while. That might back them off a bit.
Andy has his own show and his best friend Anderson, so he is in a strong position. It is Kathy who has nothing to lose in this dynamic. Will he be willing to get down in the mud with her, knowing how deep Kathy is willing to go? So far, he’s only offered a Tweet. If I had to guess, I think he will let it blow over. Andy specializes in creating feuds, he doesn’t participate in them. (In that 2015 clip, Anderson called him a pot stirrer.) If he really wanted to show he’s a Bravo boss, he’d have her on WWHL, an NBCUniversal property.
I am completely stunned by this story. It is 100% false and totally made up.— Andy Cohen (@Andy) October 28, 2017
NBCUniversal is home of all NBC properties, along with Bravo, E!, Oxygen, SYFY, Dreamworks, Universal Pictures, and Hulu. Until there is an executive turnover (which could happen), it’s doubtful anyone will deal with her. But while Joan had to storm red carpets with a camera and microphone, Kathy is actually in a much better position because there’s so many more networks and streaming services willing to take risks… and some may revel in pissing her enemies off.
For Joan and Kathy, their ambition is backed up with a strong work ethic. Kathy wants comeuppance for her grievances against these men, right now. In her stand-up and on social media, she can find small moments of revenge against the Andys and Harveys and Trumps of the world every single night. Joan often spoke about her treatment at the hands of Johnny, but didn’t help it because people didn’t want to hear about a woman bitching about a comedy idol. Will Kathy’s outspokenness be better received?
For most of her career, Joan functioned as an outsider, literally blacklisted by the most revered comic of his day. Her ban on The Tonight Show lasted through to Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien (and back to Jay Leno). The Dixie Chicks were once reviled and are now folk heroes to many. Joan had a rebirth in career because of, ironically, her win on Celebrity Apprentice. It was Jimmy Fallon who finally had her on The Tonight Show in 2014, during his first show.
But as those two examples show, it can take years and years for the nuances of a story to break through the controversy. Kathy doesn’t have the patience for that, and since, as she says, she has no more f-cks to give, she’s trying for scorched earth instead. She’s also reaching out to someone else who’s been scorching the earth:
Oooh 🌹⚒ https://t.co/JgWhH2hrAn— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) October 28, 2017
It took a long time for people to believe Rose McGowan. She was challenging a very powerful system, the same system that Kathy says is upholding the men she’s calling out. Will Kathy Griffin get the support she needs?