“Saturday Night Live” branded Ivanka Trump “complicit.” Samantha Bee used a different c-word.
The TBS late-night host made a vulgar plea to President Trump's older daughter and White House adviser on Wednesday's show.
“Do something about your dad's immigration practices, you feckless c---,” Bee said. “He listens to you.”
Bee was venting a frustration often repeated by Ivanka Trump's critics, who contend that she is squandering her power to influence the president in positive ways. The aforementioned SNL sketch described her as “the woman who could stop all this but won't.”
Yet Bee's slur crossed into coarser territory and raised, again, a question that liberals from pop culture to politics have not yet resolved in the Trump presidency: the high road or the low road?
In a polarizing and at-times-profane stand-up routine at the White House correspondents' dinner last month, comedian Michelle Wolf quipped that she would have dragged the absent president to the event, “but it turns out the president of the United States is the one p---y you're not allowed to grab.”
As some in the crowd groaned, Wolf responded, “He said it first. Yeah, he did. Do you remember?”
Everyone remembers. But not everyone agrees that “he said it first” is an excuse to emulate crassness.
“When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level,” Michelle Obama said in her address to the Democratic National Convention in 2016. “No, our motto is: When they go low, we go high.”
Bee apologized to Ivanka Trump on Thursday for an “inappropriate and inexcusable” comment.
“I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it,” Bee said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Bee's program is “not fit for broadcast,” a stronger condemnation than the White House delivered this week after “Roseanne” star Roseanne Barr aimed a racist tweet at former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Earlier this month, Chelsea Clinton condemned a tweet in which Philippe Reines, a longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton, shared unflattering speculation about the sex life of Donald Trump Jr. and Vanessa Trump, who filed for divorce.
“It's vile,” Chelsea Clinton said of Reines's tweet.
Reines has been encouraging Democrats to try to beat Trump at his own, down-in-the-mud game.
“Don’t hire anyone who says they’d rather lose than stoop to his level,” Reines wrote in The Washington Post in March, offering advice to would-be Democratic challengers in 2020. “If you say it, get out of the way for someone living in the real world.”
“Go high when you can,” he said. “But when he goes low, take advantage of the kneeling to knock his block off.”
Joe Biden, openly mulling a White House bid, said in March that he would literally knock Trump's block off, if the two men were still in high school.
“I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,” Biden said.
There is a comedy precedent for Bee's shot at Ivanka Trump: Wolf's performance at the correspondents' dinner, Stephen Colbert's remark that “the only thing [President Trump's] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's c--- holster,” Kathy Griffin's photo shoot with a bloodied effigy of the president's head. There is a broader context, too: Liberals have to decide whether the way to take down Trump is with Trump-like insults.
This post has been updated with Bee's apology and reaction from the White House.