Stop asking Joan Rivers to apologize for her horrible joke about the kidnapped Cleveland women. She’s never going to.


Joan Rivers and her daughter, Melissa. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

In her later years, Joan Rivers had made her life’s work skewering celebrities on E!’s “Fashion Police.” The meaner the joke, the funnier it is. Who doesn’t love laughing at celebrities? If their feelings are hurt, they can go cry in their piles of money.

Outside “Fashion Police,” and in regards to regular people — especially those who have been through some sort of unimaginable tragedy —  Rivers’ jokes tend to go from scathing to unbelievably offensive. At the moment, she’s under fire for a barb about the three Cleveland women who were discovered last summer after being held captive and tortured in a basement for a decade. That’s right: Earlier this week while on “Today” promoting her little-watched WE tv reality show “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” in which Joan moves into her daughter Melissa’s house, she started complaining about the size of her bedroom.

“I’m still in the same stupid little room, I mean, those women in the basement in Cleveland had more space. I mean, it is just the worst,” Rivers, 80, said.

Melissa’s jaw dropped, as did the “Today” co-hosts as Rivers continued. “Too soon?” Rivers asked, noticing the reaction.

Al Roker was practically speechless. “You be the judge,” he managed to say.

It didn’t take long for the furious reaction to hit the Internet. The lawyers for two of the women, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, fired off a stinging comment to the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “We understand that Ms. Rivers is a comedienne; however, the idea that a celebrity would say something this hurtful, on national television no less, is beyond shocking and disappointing. Our clients are strong, private women who have endured unwanted and often painful media attention for quite some time. They now have to endure this, which is a new low, and we believe a sincere apology is warranted.”

Okay, to break this down: Obviously, the women are owed an apology. It was a horrible thing to say, and if there’s anybody who should be absolved from any jokes at their expense (even the really stupid ones) it’s women who went through what they did. But here’s the thing: It’s worthless to get worked up over Rivers’ role in it, because Rivers is not going to apologize. She never would.

Rivers herself has been through a particular hell and back as she’s clawed her way up the Hollywood ladder, and many years ago reached the point in her career at which she can say basically anything she wants. Don’t like it? Find it offensive? She doesn’t care. The people that like Joan Rivers are going to like Joan Rivers; the ones that hate her, can hate her. She’s her own harshest critic, and has nothing to lose.

Trying to get Rivers to be remotely apologetic or admit she was wrong is essentially useless, as various media outlets are finding out. Such as the Plain Dealer, describing Rivers’ response when they reached her by phone:

“I’m a comedienne,’’ she said. “I know what those girls went through. It was a little, stupid joke. There is nothing to apologize for. I made a joke. That’s what I do. Calm down. Calm (expletive) down. I’m a comedienne. They’re free, so let’s move on.’’

Rivers said she was thrilled that the women are OK and said she hopes they have productive, joyful lives. She also said The Plain Dealer should “stop writing about my stupidity’’ and worry more about government leaders.

She wasn’t even finished: Rivers had even more things to say to TMZ later that day, including, “They got to live rent free for more than a decade” and “I bet you within three years one of them will be on ‘Dancing With the Stars’” and “One of them has a book deal.  Neither are in a psych ward.  They’re OK.”

Yeah — listen everyone, this is how it will keep going until everyone stops asking her about it. She could say many worse things, honestly. (Have you heard her stand-up?)

By demanding an apology from Rivers, you’re just giving her more publicity — and what’s going to happen? She’s known for saying outrageous things on E!, so presumably that network won’t be bothered; WE tv would probably love for more viewers to check out her low-rated reality show, currently in its fourth season. Forget the fact that Rivers herself couldn’t care less: If there aren’t going to be consequences, because everyone knows that saying offensive things is just what Joan Rivers does, then there can’t be a punishment.

It’s best to just forget it, and move on.

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Related: Joan Rivers remembers Phyllis Diller

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Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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