Samantha Bee Apologizes for Slur Against Ivanka Trump

Posted May 31, 2018 10:37 p.m. EDT

Samantha Bee apologized Thursday for having used a vulgar epithet to describe Ivanka Trump on her TBS show, saying she had “crossed a line.” TBS also issued an apology, but took no disciplinary action against the late night host.

Bee’s insult of the president’s elder daughter on Wednesday’s episode of “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” included a crude reference for the female anatomy — and caused a furor made more intense because the remark came just a day after ABC swiftly canceled “Roseanne” over a racist tweet by the show’s star, Roseanne Barr.

The different consequences for the two politically minded entertainers — Barr is an outspoken supporter of the president, while Bee is a full-throated opponent of the Trump administration — provided conservatives with a fresh opportunity to accuse the media industry of having a liberal bias.

Hours before Bee and the cable network issued their apologies, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, called the host’s remarks “vile and vicious.”

“The collective silence by the left and its media allies is appalling,” Sanders said. “Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast, and executives at Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network.”

The criticism of a comedian from the White House came as a federal judge is considering a Justice Department challenge to the proposed acquisition of Time Warner — TBS’ parent company — by AT&T. President Donald Trump has publicly opposed the deal and the court’s decision is expected June 12.

Bee insulted Ivanka Trump toward the end of a nearly seven-minute segment devoted to the issue of migrant children. Appearing on a screen in the background was a photograph of Ivanka Trump holding one of her children, which the president’s daughter had posted on social media earlier in the week. Bee described Ivanka Trump’s posting of the photo as “oblivious,” given that the topic of migrant families was prominently in the news.

“Let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices,” Bee added, before making use of the epithet.

The studio audience gasped — before breaking into cheers.

Continuing to address Ivanka Trump, Bee advised her to “put on something tight and low-cut” and to tell her father to “stop it.” To emphasize the point, she made use of another obscenity.

On Thursday, amid rumblings of a boycott by advertisers, and with commentators on the left and right discussing the slur in an online debate that fell largely along partisan lines, Bee said she regretted using the word.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night,” the host said in a statement.

In its own statement, TBS said Bee had taken the right course of action by apologizing for the “vile and inappropriate language” she had used. “Those words should not have been aired,” the statement continued. “It was our mistake, too, and we regret it.”

Two companies, State Farm and Autotrader, said Thursday they were suspending advertising from “Full Frontal.”

The host’s remarks, including the epithet, were scripted, a spokeswoman for TBS said. When the segment was broadcast, the offending word was bleeped out, but it was left uncensored on the clip that was posted online. TBS removed the video from its site Thursday afternoon.

“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” which airs at 10:30 on Wednesday nights, is taped at the CBS Broadcast Center in midtown Manhattan late in the afternoon on the day of its broadcast — meaning that TBS had time to edit the segment.

Bee, a 48-year-old Canadian-American comic and commentator, spent 12 years as a regular on “The Daily Show.” Her TBS show, which went on the air in 2016, has become a home for searing commentary on President Donald Trump.

The crass insult of Ivanka Trump ignited a debate on where media companies should draw the line, especially where comedians are concerned, and whether it is fair to assume an equivalency between a racist remark like the one made by Barr and a vulgar epithet like the one used by Bee. Several prominent conservatives said that a lack of disciplinary action on the part of TBS would reveal a double standard in the media and entertainment industries.

Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter, “There’s no uprising against Bee. Why? Because she is liberal.”

NBC’s Megyn Kelly, who has been a target of Bee’s barbs, also derided the remark on Twitter. “This is disgusting,” she wrote. “How is this acceptable?”

While liberals largely supported Bee, Chelsea Clinton criticized her, saying on Twitter, “It’s grossly inappropriate and just flat-out wrong to describe or talk about @IvankaTrump or any woman that way.”

Bee, one of two women hosting a late-night talk show — the other is Robin Thede, of BET — has been a central component of TBS’ efforts to rebuild its original programming lineup. The cable network has renewed “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” through the 2020 season.

The show was nominated for an Emmy last year, and TBS has been enthusiastically promoting Bee during the current awards-campaign season. Last week, the network hosted an event for her in Beverly Hills, California, to increase her chances of receiving nominations, which will be announced in July.

On Thursday night, Bee was scheduled to appear at an event in Hollywood where the Television Academy, the organization in charge of the Emmy Awards, was set to honor several shows — including “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” — for using the “dynamic power of television to inspire social change.”