Kathy Griffin’s photo showing her holding a prop resembling President Donald Trump’s severed head drew swift condemnation from across the political spectrum. CNN quickly responded by firing the comedian from her role as co-host of its New Year’s Eve special. As Griffin demonstrated, a career built over decades can be destroyed in a matter of seconds by insensitive or offensive comments or actions. Here are 10 celebrities who learned that lesson the hard way.
10. Howard Cosell
The Monday Night Football host came under fire in 1983 after referring to a black Washington Redskins receiver as a “little monkey.” (Contrary to popular belief, the receiver was Alvin Garrett, not Art Monk.) Cosell claimed he used that affectionate term to describe his own grandchildren, and video has since surfaced of him using that term to refer to diminutive white players. The incident led to Cosell’s departure from the MNF booth after the 1983 season.
9. Charlie Sheen
Sheen starred for eight seasons on the hit show Two and a Half Men, winning award nominations and becoming the highest-paid actor on television. That all came to a sudden end in early 2011, when CBS canceled the season’s remaining episodes and terminated Sheen’s contract after he made derogatory remarks about show creator Chuck Lorre. A month later, of course, Sheen hit rock bottom, suggesting in an interview that he had “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA.”
8. Doug Adler
The former pro tennis player and ESPN commentator isn’t as well known as the others in this story, but he’s included because his case illustrates what happens when concerns about offensive language go too far. ESPN fired Adler in early 2017 after he said that black tennis star Venus Williams “put the guerrilla effect on” to win a match in the Australian Open. Offended viewers thought he had used the homonym “gorilla.” Adler later had a heart attack his doctors blamed on stress from the termination. He has filed suit against ESPN.
7. Paula Deen
As the celebrity chef demonstrated, even offensive comments made long ago can come back to haunt you. Deen lost cooking programs, book deals and endorsement contracts in 2013 after being sued for racial and sexual discrimination. She admitted in her court deposition she had used the “N-word” in the past.
6. Curt Schilling
The pitcher best known for his “bloody sock” game in the 2004 ALCS has become almost as well known for sharing his conservative views. ESPN fired Schilling from his role as an analyst on Sunday Night Baseball in 2016, after he shared a Facebook post many found offensive. The post, showing an image of a burly man dressed in a feminine outfit, supposedly in a women’s locker room, noted, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
5. Don Imus
CBS Radio fired the controversial syndicated host in 2007 after he referred to members of a women’s college basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” Imus claimed that the term had originated in the black community. He later sued CBS for wrongful termination, claiming the network expected him to provide “irreverent” entertainment. The two sides reached a settlement.
4. Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder
Snyder worked 12 years on the CBS Sunday morning pregame show, The NFL Today, using his experience in pro football betting to predict game scores. But in 1988, CBS quickly fired him after he made off-hand remarks to a TV reporter that blacks excelled athletically because they had been bred by slave owners to produce bigger offspring.
3. Alec Baldwin
One of the leading figures of the American left, Baldwin stepped up to defend Griffin’s stunt with the bloody Trump prop. He certainly understands her predicament — in 2013, MSNBC canceled Baldwin’s show, Up Late With Alec Baldwin, after the actor was caught on video apparently calling a photographer a “co**su***** f**.” Baldwin denied he used the second part of the phrase.
2. Donald Trump
Yes, Trump has obviously been on the other end of offensive comments. Univision dropped Trump’s Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageant broadcasts after his controversial comments about Mexican immigrants in 2015. Trump promptly sued for $500 million; he and the network reached a settlement a few months later.
1. Kathy Griffin
Griffin’s conservative critics quickly point out this is not the first time the comedian has been offensive. At the 2007 Emmy Awards show, she told Jesus to “suck it,” adding, “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.” She gets the No. 1 spot here simply because most of the other entries here were spur-of-the-moment, off-hand remarks, Griffin’s recent act was more premeditated.